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Bandierai degli Uffizi of Florence: Raising the Flags High

Photo by Rebecca Wheeler

Photo by Rebecca Wheeler

If you have ever been to Italy and managed to attend a major event such as the Palio horse races in Siena, or perhaps the colorful Historic Football (or Calcio Storico) in Florence, then you may have had the pleasure of also witnessing the costumed processions that precede the main events. The procession is normally composed of locals in period costumes, marching down the main road while beating drums, waving heraldic flags, and performing colorful stunts.

These men are known as the Bandierai, or “flag-wavers”, and what they do is considered an art form that requires years of training to perfect. While there are many such groups throughout the country of Italy, the biggest and one of the oldest of these groups is the Bandierai degli Uffizi of Florence who officially represent their home city, and hold performances during important celebrations, giving people the chance to enjoy their showcase of talent.

Bandierai degli Uffizi3

They have recently celebrated their 40th year by the production and showing of their documentary about the art of flag-waving, an event that was attended by an audience of 600 people. On top of that, the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, has also recently awarded the group with a medal of representation during a separate occasion, an honor which is given out only to groups and individuals with outstanding cultural achievements.

Don’t think that they’re a strictly local attraction, though, because the Bandierai degli Uffizi is also recognized internationally and have been invited to overseas events such as various Columbus Day’s celebrations in the USA, the World Cup in Spain, Italy, France, and Mexico, as well as in important cultural events in Brazil and Japan. Their performances have been well-received and loved in these countries, as they raise awareness for Florentine soccer and Florentine culture in general wherever they go.

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Bandierai degli Uffizi ‘s Roots

As mentioned earlier, the Bandierai degli Uffizi is a group that aims to bring into focus Florentine culture, particularly that from the Renaissance. As such, the flags and colors that they bear are actually representations of the most prominent magistrates of the 16th-century Florentine Republic. It should also be mentioned that in those days, flags weren’t merely decorative, but were instead used in the battlefield to communicate military strategies among troops and divisions. Because of this, flag-bearers played an important role in each battle, and capturing an enemy’s flags was considered as a significant advantage.

Photo by Monica Mare

Photo by Monica Mare

While they no longer participate in wars in our present age, the dances, stunts, and choreography that they use are all throwbacks to ancient performances, as well as simulations of struggles and clashes from days of old. The result is the Bandierai degli Uffizi that we know and love today who are passionate and dedicated about the preservation of the “Florentine Art of the Banner”.

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Present-Day Bandierai degli Uffizi

Because of their love for the art, the group takes great care to be able to share their traditions with as many people as possible, and by passing it on to future generations. They have opened their doors to children as young as six years old who wish to learn the art of being a Florentine flag-waver, who they hope will then continue their training over the years to master the craft. Over the past few years, they have also organized “Bandierai Day,” a charity event where all people can try out the banners and drums for themselves. All the proceeds of the event are then donated to that year’s chosen NGO or charity group.

Photo by Riccardo Marchionne

Photo by Riccardo Marchionne

When Can I Watch Their Performances?

Photo by Oriano Brunetti

Photo by Oriano Brunetti

If we’ve got your interest piqued, then it’s time to come over to Florence to actually see Bandierai degli Uffizi in person, and experience the excitement and thrill that their drums and banners bring to any event. They have many performances throughout the year, but the ones that you are GUARANTEED to catch them at would be during traditional Florentine festivals such as:

  • The Cavalcade of the Magi – Epiphany, or the 12th day after Christmas
  • Florentine’s New Year – Feast of the Annunciation, or March 25
  • Scoppio del Carro (“Explosion of the Cart”) – Easter
  • Trofeo Marzocco – an annual Bandierai competition in May
  • Calcio Fiorentino (“Florentine Football”) – St. John’s Day, or June 24
  • Feast of Santa Reparata – October 8
  • Christmas
Photo by Alessandra Barucchieri

Photo by Alessandra Barucchieri

So go on and cheer as the flags go by (or fly by, or spin by…) and join the Bandierai degli Uffizi in celebrating Florence and its culture!

(Meanwhile, here’s an English-language video to show you how these guys are in action! :D)

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By Priscila (266 Posts)

Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients.

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