Every year, on March 25th our guided tours of Florence are interrupted by the sound of trumpets announcing an important religious celebration, the Annunciation, the moment when the Madonna received the news that she would have become the mother of Jesus. All Catholics know about this date, but something that not all of them know is that March 25th coincided with the New Year in Florence and Pisa. For centuries, in some parts of Italy but also elsewhere in Europe, people celebrated the Annunciation as the beginning of a new year.
This tradition was interrupted in 1528 by Pope Gregory XIII who changed the date to January 1st to create order in the chaotic calendar used until that year. But the Florentines didn’t give up that easily to their traditions and continued celebrating New Year on March 25th until 1750 when Grand Duke Francesco Stefano de Lorena, the successor to the Medici family, imposed the Gregorian calendar.
Every year, on March 25th the city of Florence remembers the old Florentine New Year with a historical parade that cross the city’s squares and finishes in Piazza Santissima Annunziata, the Holy Annunciation Square. Inside the Church of the Santissima Annunziata, there is a special image of the Virgin Mary considered miraculous. Legend has it that in 1252, an artist received the commission of painting the Annunciation, but after completing the Archangel Gabriel, he couldn’t find inspiration for the image of the Virgin. He fell asleep one night with the brush in his hand and when he woke up, he found a marvelous image of Mary next to his Archangel Gabriel. By night, an angel created the purest face of the Madonna that could be found in Florence. All Florentines rushed to see the miracle and since then, the image was worshiped by all pilgrims reaching Florence.
There is another tradition related to the Madonna’s miraculous painting. After the wedding ceremony, many Florentine brides used to leave their bouquet in front of the chapel housing Mary’s angelic portrait for good luck and healthy babies.
There are many other legends and Florentine ancient traditions you will discover during a private tour of Florence with your tour guide, Eliza D.