16 Jun 2010

…for its most important festivals: La Luminara and San Ranieri. You can feel the city getting ready for the party. You can even smell it. You certainly should not miss this.

Pisa is getting ready…

You can feel it in the air: the people walk faster; the students hasten out of the University buildings in a festive way; small groups of people everywhere are working out the last details for tonight’s house parties.

The street vendors are putting up their stalls for the market in the streets of the center; sandwich trucks are preparing their display of focacce, sweets, sugar candies shaped as fruit, and of course the most prominent sign of a festive day about to break out: the unfailing presence of full-size porchette!

Almost every bar opened later than usual this morning and by 3pm had already installed a draught beer system outside their door to serve drinks to the hundreds of people who, in a few hours, will fill the Lungarni and the streets of the center.

The city is alive and ready to celebrate the two most important days of the year: La Luminara and San Ranieri, the city’s Patron Saint’s Day.

It’s funny how you can feel the city getting ready. You can even smell it. I was walking to work this morning and I wandered through some minor streets in between the old buildings of the city. I was suddenly hit by a strong smell of soffritto and suddenly remembered the atmosphere of the many mornings before the various Luminare that I saw when I was a student. We would go to class or study until lunchtime and then we would all be on holiday. I used to live with 3 other students and our apartment, a large, old apartment near Pisa’s high street, was the gathering place for all our friends. We would have a dinner party before going out to the Lungarni and mix with the crowds before the fireworks.

The night itself was fun, but it is what Pisa becomes late at night that I will never forget. After the fireworks we would go from pub to pub; we would dance in the streets and squares where concerts had been organized (I saw one of my first Bandabardò concerts at La Sapienza, the faculty of Law, on June 16th 1995!); we would wait for the crowds to leave the city to have the Lungarni all to ourselves. The city is wonderful around 2am, when the breeze is cool, the streets are emptying out and the flames in the glass lumini are still quivering  before the candles go out. It is the memory of those first Luminare which makes the wait for any new one an exciting time.

This year, the rain threatened the “festa”, but after two dreadful days of bad weather, the sun is finally out and the people who light the candles have already been at work for a few hours. They place the “lumini” in the candle holders on the white frames on the facades of the building and called “biancheria“.  105,000 candles will be lit tonight and people will be invited to vote to choose the most beautiful building of the Lungarno. I think Palazzo Blu will win this year: they have stunning Egyptian-style decorations to celebrate the current exhibition on Rosellini’s expedition to Egypt.

Tonight the museums will be opened at night: guided tours will be given of Palazzo Reale. The fireworks will be launched from two spots tonight: from the Tower of the Cittadella as always, and from Le Piagge. Among the interesting events organized, I find the exhibition organized by the retirement home on the Lungarno and dedicated to Keith Haring very interesting. I saw the nurses prepare everything while walking back home: it’s great to think that the elderly people who live there have taken an interest in the event and have come up with such a lovely idea.

The boat with the pole that marks the finishing line of the Regatta of San Ranieri is already in place, ready for tomorrow.

I know that lovely Kathy McCabe Editor of the Dream of Italy Travel Newsletter will be in Pisa for the Luminara tonight: I hope she will enjoy her stay and that she will write a great report of her night out in the city when she gets back!


  1. Great personal article filled with engaging factual detail and terrific photography. Wish we were there! Thanks a lot for putting this together. By the way…why Keith Haring?

  2. Thank you! Keith Haring painted a murales in Pisa called Tuttomondo. It’s one of the few works of art for permanent display. Very beautiful and not very well-known.
    A few years back there was a fantastic exhibit at Palazzo Lanfranchi.

  3. Thanks for elaborating on Tuttomondo mural & the link. Will look for it next time we’re there.


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