Epiphany Day in Florence: See the ‘Ride of the Magi’ Parade

events in Florence during the holidays

The holidays aren’t over in Italy until the Befanacomes around, January 6 or Epiphany Day, a feast that, in Western Christianity, commemorates the visit of the Magi to baby Jesus. In Florence, the day is marked with a procession and re-enactment of an ancient Florentine tradition known as ‘la cavalcata dei Magi’, the ride of the Magi.

It is quite the show: the solemn procession, made up of about 700 people in period costumes, led by the Magi on horseback wearing sumptuous silk dresses inspired by those seen on Benozzo Gozzoli’s fresco in the chapel inside Palazzo Medici Riccardi, winds its way through the center of Florence, departing from Piazza Pitti and arriving in Piazza Duomo.

This tradition goes back to the 15th century, when a secular association dedicated to the Magi, the Compagnia dei Santi Re Magi, also known as ‘La Stella,’  organized a festive parade around the streets of Florence every three and then five years. The parade consisted of  three different processions that met at the Baptistery and proceeded together to the Basilica of San Marco, where, with songs and prayers, they worshipped Child Jesus.

Major members of the Medici family belonged to the association and took part in the parade; after 1494 however, when the Medici were expelled from Florence, the event was suppressed. It was the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, the Florentine institution that, since 1296, promotes and preserves Piazza del Duomo and its monuments, that revived the tradition in 1997, the 700th year since the construction of the Cathedral.

To complete your experience of the Magi in Florence, you should visit the Magi Chapel in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, where you can admire the famous cycle of frescoes by Renaissance master Benozzo Gozzoli, painted around 1459 for the Medici family; they depict the journey of the Magi and several Medici figures.

The Details:

January 6, begins at 2 pm at Piazza Pitti, arrives at Piazza Duomo at 3 pm, passing through Via Guicciardini, Ponte Vecchio, Via Por Santa Maria, Via Lambertesca, Loggiato degli Uffizi, Piazza della Signoria, Via Calzaiuoli. At 2:30 pm in Piazza della Signoria, the parade will be joined by the Corteo storico della Repubblica fiorentina (Historic Procession of the Florentine Republic).

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Enter the World of Madcap Italian Mastermind Franco Battiato

Superior Viaduct’s Reissues of His First Three Albums Are Extraordinary

At the end of last year, top-shelf San Francisco reissue label Superior Viaduct rereleased the first three albums by Sicilian-born musician Franco Battiato. His name might not ring a bell for many Americans, but in Italy, Battiato’s something of a legend: an avant-garde pioneer who became a mainstream superstar.

Perhaps the overall appeal of his output in total—starting with his frisky pop singles from the 1960s to the adult contemporary-leaning work of his later years—will never be anything but intrinsically Italian. But for several years in the ’70s, Battiato was a one-of-a-kind global visionary, marrying gonzo prog-rock song structures with blurping synthesizers, gentle folk textures, free-jazz wildness, Italian operatic drama, and peerless pop instincts. Often, these elements would collide within a single song. And—on these three rereleased albums, anyway—the result was some of the most delectable, weird, wonderful music I have ever heard. To say that these reissues are worth tracking down is an understatement.

1971’s Fetus is the best example of Battiato’s playfulness, with crazy sound effects—courtesy of the legendary EMS VCS 3 synthesizer—alternating with winsome song fragments constructed from acoustic guitar and Battiato’s fervent Italian vocals. This is Battiato at his catchiest, especially on songs like “Energia” and “Fenomenologia,” which sound like number-one smashes from an alternate dimension, one in which the guitar-bass-drums rock band format has been replaced by cosmic synths, heavenly harp-like guitars, and tribally thumping tom-toms. Battiato rerecorded Fetus with English lyrics for the UK-based Island Records (unreleased at the time, you can find it on streaming services as Foetus, although it doesn’t come close to the original Italian LP’s greatness), but Battiato was injured in a car crash, and Island’s attempt to market his music to English-speaking countries was put on hold.

With 1972’s Pollution, Battiato’s chimerical approach to sound aligned with the maturing progressive rock movement. Making use of a full backing band, the maestro directs his cohort to emit dreamy, Pink Floyd grooves on “Beta,” and pilots the synth-and-guitar tangles in the lengthy title track. He also layers in existing recordings of classical music from Johann Strauss and Bedrich Smetana, and the album concludes with what sounds like a ghostly requiem mass filtered through his VCS 3, with a recording of Battiato dolefully, ridiculously sobbing on top of it. It’s an irresistibly spooky, funny, invigorating record, a one-of-a-kind experience from a headspace where genre demarcations do not apply.

On 1973’s Sulle Corde di Aries, Battiato stretched out. The album kicks off with a side-long composition, “Sequenze e Frequenze,” that begins with free-jazz trumpet blares and a wraithlike choir that sounds like Ennio Morricone soundtracking a Jodorowsky film. Synths descend, and Battiato incorporates Gregorian chant and Hindustani classical music in a fantasy world populated by chattering music boxes. The three tracks on Side Two are similarly meditative, exploring Eastern musical attitudes through Western timbres (depicted explicitly in one song’s title, “Da Oriente ad Occidente”), and creating squelching, womblike songs that are equal parts zany exploration and liturgical calm.


All three albums are available on 180-gram vinyl via Superior Viaduct. The sound is breathlike and stunning, especially compared to inferior imported CD versions of the album—the clunky edits and occasionally crude instrumentation sound entirely natural on Superior Viaduct’s reissues. Anyone with even the slightest thirst for musical adventure will find downpours of delight in Battiato’s eccentric, spellbinding world of sound.

Source: https://www.portlandmercury.com/around-and-around-a-vinyl-column/2018/01/03/19583885/enter-the-world-of-madcap-italian-mastermind-franco-battiato

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Ciao STL Brings Carnevale to St Louis

First celebrated in 1094, today Carnevale festivals are held all over Italy, from Venice and Milan down to the villages and towns of Sicily. Sharing in this tradition,  Ciao St Louis is proud to present our first annual Carnevale Grande Masquerade Ball!

We cordially invite you to join us as we bring the tastes, color, music and excitement of Italy’s Carnevale to St. Louis!

When: Saturday, February 10, 2018–6:30pm-11:30pm

Where: The Ballroom at River City Hotel & Casino 

Price: $100pp: reservations available at ciaostl.com

Dress code: formal, black tie optional.  Masks.

What you receive: 6:30-7:30:  Cocktail hour with passed appetizers, Prosecco and live entertainment. 

7:30-11:30: Premium open bar, customized Italian food stations, dessert station,  music, dancing, mask contest, surprise performances!

**special room rates available for those wishing to spend the night in the hotel. Message me for details.

Thank You,

Laura DiMaggio
Ciao St Louis Event Chairperson
Marianna Vitale
Ciao St Louis Event co-chair
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Saint Louis

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