Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Guinness of Bonfires

The 8 metre high  bonfire
Photo F. Pignatale 
 Il Focarone of Bagnaia is the biggest of the hundreds of  bonfires   that are lit all over Italy on the night of January  16th-17th in honor of  St. Anthony Abbot, healer and protector of livestock. 
tower and entrance to medieval Bagnaia 

 For the entire  week preceding  the festival,  groups of young people were hard at work setting up  the  eight-metre tall mass of tree  trunks and other  timber in the middle of the piazza.

The expert  builders must   insure that the bonfire will burn evenly  so it does not collapse on one side.

Il  Focarone, ready for lighting 

The   mid-winter bonfire  is  a tradition that is  strongly felt  by the Bagnaioli, as the townspeople are called.

 The  festivities begin  at 5 p.m.  with a  procession of costumed dignitaries representing important characters in the town’s long and sometimes tragic history. 

as night falls  the festivities begin 
These include  La Pucciarella, a young girl who defended Bagnaia when the  Lanzichenecchi lay siege to the town in 1527.

the piazza  resembles, in miniature, Rome's  Piazza del Popolo
 The flag throwers are followed by the igniting of the bonfire at 6:30 p.m.  
   The flames leap higher than the village rooftops heating up  the piazza and the crowds who come from Viterbo and other  nearby  towns.  
 Bagnaia is mostly known for its magnificent Renaissance  Villa Lante gardens, which are a perfect retreat in sultry summer weather,  so it is a surprise to discover this tradition offering respite from winter's cold.  


  1. For more on Villa Lante see the post entitled "Cool,Romantic Waters "

  2. I love this! I also love the huge bonfire in Nepi (Tuscia) - equally impressive...

    FMaggi, Author
    Burnt by the Tuscan Sun

  3. Thank you Francesco for the photo and the comment. Francesca do you have any photos of the Nepi bonfire ?

  4. Hi Mary Jane, great post, I didn't know Bagnaia also celebrated St Antonio Abate with a bonfire. Here's a link to my blog post on the focarone in Nepi ( I wonder which bonfire is bigger?

  5. Marta has a much smaller celebration which sadly we will not be there for. I will link to this post on my FB page MJ.

  6. wow...!! It's so nice.. Cool pics..!! Enjoyed this blog a lot and love to share it with my friends.

  7. This celebration looks so awesome and very unique for me because before this I have never heard this types of celebration. Thanks for sharing this nice post...
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