Much of Italy is celebrating today as June 24 is San Giovanni Feast Day, which honors John the Baptist. But every city has their own way of celebrating this public holiday. From the parades and fireworks in Florence, to floating lamps on Lake Como, traditions abound, many of which you can learn about and discover during an Italy cooking vacation.
The holiday is particularly popular in Florence, since John the Baptist is the city’s patron saint. In addition to the parade that ends at the Baptistery of the Cathedral and a mass, there is also a game called “Calcio Fiorentino” that takes place in costumes in the Piazza Sante Croce. While the medieval game, known as “historic Florentine football,” is considered the roots of soccer, it doesn’t look much like the soccer/football game that so many know today. Rather the game is actually more of a mix of rugby, soccer, and wrestling, definitely a unique experience to witness.
Celebrating in Italy wouldn’t be complete without a tradition that involves food. For San Giovanni’s feast day that dish always includes snails, which is John the Baptist’s symbol. But snails are not just to eat! In Lake Como, the snails are also placed on lanterns that float on the lake and lead the way to an island, Isola Comacina, where an ancient church dedicated to San Giovanni once stood.
Discover even more traditions – related to food and otherwise – by taking an Italy cooking vacation, such as one of our cooking classes in Tuscany. The menus and recipes you’ll learn in a class are not only seasonal, but often reflect the holidays and traditions of a given city.
By Liz Hall
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Originally published June 24, 2013.