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Florence: A seasonal guide

  • Story Highlights
  • Florence's seasonal highlights include twinkling lights at Christmas
  • Easter brings "Scoppio del carro," an exploding cart stuffed with fireworks
  • In late June, Florentine men play a fierce combination of football and fighting
  • The cricket festival on Ascension Day is thought to bring good luck
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(CNN) -- Hot summers when the city is crammed with tourists; cooler winters when the rain can swell the Arno: Florence is an all-year-round destination. Here are some of the city's seasonal highlights.

A Verdi player finds a gap in the Azzurri team's defence during the 2003 Calcio Storico

A Verdi player finds a gap in the Azzurri team's defence during the 2003 Calcio Storico

Vintage clothes
For a long time, image-conscious Italians wouldn't be seen dead in second-hand clothes. But recently they have started to catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to coveting the nearly new and Florence is host to the biggest used clothes fair in Italy. It's held twice yearly in February and July (Stazione Leopolda; +39 055 246 6198).

Christmas in Florence
Not only is the city wonderfully deserted at this time of year, but the lights that adorn every shop window give the place an almost magical feeling. You can buy everything from amber to reindeer skins at the Christmas market (Mercato di natale) in the Piazza Santa Croce from the beginning of December. Go ice-skating in the Piazza della Liberta or make for the Piazza della Republicca, home to Florence's enormous Christmas tree sparkling with 16,000 lights. On Christmas day, High Mass at the Duomo is an unforgettable experience.

Scoppio del Carro, Easter Sunday
Exploding the cart, or "scoppio del carro," at Easter is one of the oldest and most important Florentine traditions. Decorated white oxen drag an elaborate cart stuffed full of fireworks from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza del Duomo. A dove-shaped rocket in the Duomo is lit and shoots along a wire to the cart where it ignites the rest of the fireworks: impressive pyrotechnics ensue. Tradition has it that if the first rocket flies straight, it will be a lucky year for Florentines.

Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, April to June
The May Music Festival is a series of classical music concerts, recitals, and operas and ballet held in venues across the city. It is internationally acclaimed and tickets are hot property, so check the Web site for scheduling and book in advance (www.maggiofiorentino.com )

Calcio Storico Fiorentino, June 24-28
This traditional game is a testosterone-fueled mix of football and fighting played by young men from the four Florentine quarters: San Giovanni, Santa Maria Novella, Santo Spirito and Santa Croce. They may look amusing in their medieval-style pantaloons but there is nothing funny about the level of competition in this fierce sport -- players often seem more preoccupied with fighting each other than getting the ball in the net, which runs the length of the pitch. An amazing spectacle, especially because it is held in the shadow of the beautiful Santa Croce church in the piazza below.

Festa del Grillo (Cricket Festival), Ascension Day
If you are feeling low on luck, the cricket festival, which heralds the start of spring, could boost your fortunes. Singing crickets are thought to bring good luck and in days gone by children would fashion cages and hunt for crickets to take to the Parco delle Cascine. Nowadays, the crickets are likely to be fake, but you can buy them housed in endearing pastel-painted confections with windows and roofs -- and they are still considered lucky.

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