Every year on June 24th, Florence celebrates the feast of its patron saint, San Giovanni (St. John), to whom the Baptistery was dedicated. In the morning there is a traditional historic parade beginning in Piazza Signoria and ending at the Baptistery where candles will be offered for the patron, followed by a mass at 10:45am in the Duomo. Don’t forget, this is a city-wide official holiday and many offices and stores will be closed.
Some museums will hold special hours in celebration of the day. Even though the Uffizi is normally closed on Mondays, it will be open from 8:15am to 6:30pm. Orsanmichele will be free and open until 9pm. The Brancacci Chapel will be open from 10am-5pm, the Santa Maria Novella opens 9am-5:30pm, and the Palazzo Vecchio will be visitable until 7pm.
Piazza Santa Croce has been transformed into a sandy playing field where the final match of the famous Calcio in Costume or Calcio Storico Fiorentino (historic Florentine soccer) game will take place in the afternoon sun, a tradition that dates from the 16th century. The game consists of an elaborate production with a parade complete with musicians and flag tossers, and participants dressed in traditional costume. Although it sounds elegant, the competition can be quite violent and occasionally gets cancelled due to players’ bad attitudes, as the sport is a mix between rugby, wrestling, and soccer. Tickets for the match are already sold out.
If you want a more calm event, beginning on the 24th until September 30, visitors can climb the Torre di San Niccolò across the river in the neighborhood of the same name, in Piazza Poggi. After climbing 160 steps with a guide, gorgeous panoramic views of the river front and the city’s monument can be seen poking out above the terra cotta roof lines. Open daily 5-8pm, tickets are 3 euro and reservations must be made by calling 055-2768224.
And last but not least, when darkness falls at 10pm, crowds of people will gather along the bridges and banks of the Arno River to see the fireworks display shooting off from Piazzale Michelangelo. It is recommended to come early to find a good vantage point for the spectacular show.