Marvelous March!

March is a great month of transition for my beloved city of Florence. The weather shifts from the cool of winter to the warm blossom of spring, the daylight shifts to an hour earlier (along with the rest of the EU), and towards the end of the month, the tourists begin to arrive in numbers.

Now is the time to enjoy the best of all worlds! Here are some events and traditions to explore: –

Michelangelo’s Birthday: March 6th is the birthday of one of the greatest artists in history, and a “favorite son” of Florence. Celebrate his 549th birthday by seeing his famous David sculpture, or visiting his newly opened (and soon to close) Secret Hideaway.

Honoring Women: March 8th marks the international day of celebrating women and their roles in society. Less celebrated in the U.S., it is an international holiday marked by giving yellow mimosa flowers to women — you’ll see bouquets for sale everywhere in the city. In addition, there is free admission for women to the Uffizi Gallery, Bargello National Museum, Palazzo Pitti, and Boboli Gardens.

Honoring Fathers: On March 19th is the Feast of St. Joseph, and also the celebration of Father’s Day in Italy. Mirroring the Father’s Day holiday that is celebrated later in the year in the U.S. and Canada,, children of Tuscany on this day honor their “babbo”, as they call their fathers.

Happy New Year! Well, not quite. But during the Middle Ages the Florentine New Year was celebrated on the day Catholic Feast Day of the Annunciation, the date in the Christian calendar when the angel Gabriel told Mary about her divine pregnancy. When the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1541, the citizens of Florence acknowledge the new year as beginning on January 1st, but continued to celebrate in March as they had always done. The day is highlighted with a parade that begins at the Palagio di Parte Guelfa and goes to the Santissima Annunziata Basilica.

Eat Up! With spring just around the corner, you can get wonderful artichokes, asparagus, and winter greens at the markets. A special treat is at the markets a grassy-like green called “agretti”, which is only available early late winter and early spring. It has a unique flavor and makes a wonderful side dish. Other March treats include schiacciata alla fiorentina, sweet flatbread that is made during Carnival time, and a sweet rice ball donut called “ frittelle di San Giuseppe”, which are cooked and served all over Florence to celebrate Father’s Day.

Chocolate Out! Florence’s Chocolate Fair takes place in Piazza Santa Croce from March 7 through the 10th. The festival is open all day and features artisanal chocolate treats made by master chocolatiers from across all of Italy.

Enjoy Easter: The sacred holiday for Christians occurs on Sunday, March 31st, and the day is highlighted in Florence with the “Explosion of the Cart” or “Scoppio del Carro.” In this event, a 500-year-old cart loaded with fireworks is pulled through the streets by a pair of white oxen. When the cart reaches the Duomo, around mid-morning,  the fireworks are lit using ancient flints for a 20-minute display. Easter is a big weekend of celebration in Florence, and you may see people walking to church with baskets of eggs: The townspeople ask their local priest to bless the eggs, a holiday tradition. The Monday after Easter is a holiday, and some shops and restaurants might be closed. But the major museums will still be open.

Spring Forward: A heads up for people visiting from the U.S. and Canada: Sunday, March 31st marks the beginning of Daylight Savings in the EU, so make sure you set your clocks an hour ahead when you go to bed on Saturday night, in case you have Sunday touring plans, or have to make a flight!