In Tuscany wine is so important that the divine grape juice is officially blessed on the Duomo Square in Florence. According to a centuries-old tradition, the mayor of the town of Rufina, in the Valdisieve region east of the city, offers the wine to the city of Florence. A large cart, called carro matto (mad cart) filled with 1500 wine bottles pulled by two large oxen is paraded through the city, accompanied by a colorful troop of mixed characters dressed in Renaissance costumes. It is the bishop himself who personally blesses the traditional Chianti basket bottles.
This year the fest took place on September 27th and in all the years I’ve lived here I never witnessed the spectacle. Because I had to be in the center that afternoon anyway I decided to take a peek.
I found the cart with the big Chianina oxen in the Piazza del Duomo surrounded by a crowd armed with cameras, smartphones and iPads, and I didn’t think I would be able to catch more than a glimpse. When the public was invited to make move back and make way because the cart started moving again, I suddenly found myself in the front and had a good view on the happening. The spectators had a hard time keeping their distance, and everyone tried to take the perfect picture or selfie so that only a minimum of space was left for the cart to take the turn around the duomo. The oxen remained stoic under the chaos and noise and didn’t seem to be impressed at all by the crowd.
The wine cart was followed by a parade of musicians, flag bearers, soldiers with a real canon and ladies with basket bottles, all dressed in Renaissance costumes.