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June in Tuscany: the Luminara of San Ranieri in Pisa

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June in Tuscany is a magical time both for the pleasant weather and for the numerous events. For more than three centuries the residents of Pisa have honored their Patron Saint, San Ranieri, with the traditional festival of the Luminara.

After sunset on June 16th, all electric lights are turned off in Pisa’s historic city center and over 100,000 wax candles are lit reflecting their dancing flames in the water of the river Arno.

The little votive candles, or lumini as the Pisans call them, are hung on specially-constructed, wooden frames (known as biancheria) which decorate the facades of all the palaces, churches, towers and bridges along the riverbanks. The candlelight outlines and highlights the windows, roofs and eaves of the historical buildings creating true wonders of light choreography. Thousands of other candles are placed to float on the water. Together, they create a unique and breathtaking view of the skyline of the Lungarno in the historical center. It’s something everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime.

Visitors can vote for the building which has the most beautiful display of natural, flickering flames. Don’t miss the view of the enchanting little Gothic church Santa Maria della Spina positioned directly on the riverbank of the Arno.

The atmosphere is wonderful; young and old alike are outside enjoying this special night. Dozens of stands and trucks are positioned along the streets selling Italian handicrafts, delicious food, local specialties and sweets. You’ll sense a growing excitement in the air around 11.30 pm as the crowd waits with anticipation for the spectacular fireworks show launched from twelve floating platforms along the Arno. More then 7,500 fireworks will light up the sky for almost half an hour.

After the fireworks show, head over to the Leaning Tower to admire the amazing sight of the whole Piazza dei Miracoli (‘Square of Miracles’) illuminated only by the light of countless oil lamps placed on the surrounding city walls and along the contours of the Cathedral, Tower and Baptistery.

If you are staying over in Pisa, the festivities continue into the next day with the Palio of San Ranieri. Either way, the Luminara is an experience that you will carry with you forever.

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Article by: J. Hazewinkel