The Feast of the Epiphany on January 6 commemorates the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Christ child. In Italy gift-giving is entrusted to La Befana and gifts are commonly exchanged on this day marking the end of the holiday festivities.
Images of La Befana, with broom and black head scarf, can be seen around Tuscany. La Befana is an aged, witch-like woman, who knows which children have been good or bad throughout the year. On the evening of January 5, Italian children hang out stockings in the hopes of them being filled with sweets. Naughty kids can expect lumps of coal.
Several towns throughout Tuscany celebrate the arrival of La Befana but in terms of happenings, it is the city of Pistoia that pulls out all stops.
On the big day, the Befana will arrive on her flying broomstick on the Cathedral bell tower (4:30 pm) and, with the help of the fire department, slides down to the square below, distributing sweets and candy to waiting children in Piazza del Duomo.
She will have flown in from Prato after her drop down the Cathedral bell tower of that Tuscan town (3 pm).
Simultaneously, in Arezzo, the Befana will land on the tower of city hall (Palazzo Comunale) at 3 pm before descending to Piazza della Libertà where street artists will provide entertainment.
On the morning of the 6th, the Befana Train leaves Santa Maria Novella railway station at 9:12 am bound for San Piero a Sieve in the Mugello. The steam locomotive, with the Befana on board, takes its passengers to this region north of Florence where they will be greeted by the “Dixie Train” marching band accompanying them to the municipal gymnasium. There, the party continues with refreshments, games and numerous surprises. At lunchtime the train of merrymakers leaves for its return to Florence. Tickets are €30 for adults, €20 for kids up to 12, children three and under free.
Mirroring the New Year’s Day dives into the Arno in Florence, on the Tuscan coast, in Marina di Pisa, the yearly “Tuffo della Befana” takes place at 12 noon on the beach of Tre Ponti near piazza Sardegna. This is preceded by the arrival of the Befana at 11:45 am with stockings filled with gifts for children and slices of panettone (sweet Christmas bread) and hot chocolate for all. This increasingly popular event saw more than 300 brave participants jumping into the sea in pre-pandemic 2019. (rita kungel/additional reporting by rosanna cirigliano)