Impruneta’s Millenial Fair
The lives of the people of Impruneta revolved around ‘La Fiera’ or ‘The Fair.’ They lived their lives waiting for The Fair so that they could enjoy some honest and healthy fun; they would wait until The Fair to ask their Madonna for an indulgence; to take a spin on the Merry-Go-Round; to profess their love to their beloved or to buy a new umbrella.
[…]’ Leo Codacci, from The Most Beautiful Town in the World or Il Paese più Bello del Mondo (Officine Grafiche, Firenze, 1968).
The Fair of San Luca is one of the oldest livestock market/fairs in Europe. It takes place every year during the celebration of Impruneta’s patron Saint Luke, October 18. The Fair was first documented in an edict emanated from Alessandro Marzi Medici, Archbishop of Florence from 1605-1630, describing the scope and purpose of The Fair. This edict described that The Fair already existed, but needed to be more structured.
The origins of The Fair go back a thousand years, when shepherds would journey from the Appenine Mountains to the Maremma region of Tuscany. They would stop in Impruneta to take care of their livestock, and to buy or sell livestock with other merchants. During this stop, the shepherds would sell milk, cheese, wool, and they would visit Impruneta’s church to pay their respects to the Madonna. The people of Impruneta would welcome them during this journey, and they would display local wares that could be of use to the shepherds, in Impruneta’s piazza. The wares included shoes, clothing, tools, and terracotta urns that would become the world-renowned “Cotto dell’Impruneta.”
The Fair became well-known and soon people flocked to it from neighboring towns,cities and not just shepherds but also merchants or those making a pilgrimage to the Church. Filippo Napoletano’s painting, on display at the Galleria Palatina of Florence (1618), and Jacques Callot’s etching, on display at the Bibliothèque national de France, depict the variety of people attending The Fair. Callot moved to Florence in 1612 and lived there for 9 years under the protectorate of Christina of Lorraine. The marvelous artifact, completed in 1620, is one of the largest of Callot’s etchings (424X670mm or 16.7X26inches). It is known for its ingenious use of space, wealth of details, scenes, and abundance of characters-there are more than 1100 figurines represented in the etching. Jacques Callot’s etching is one of the most important artifacts bearing witness to the historical presence of Impruneta’s Fair.
The Fair has obviously changed and evolved with the passing of centuries, and has today transformed itself into a cultural, social and entertainment event. The trading of livestock is no longer the highlight of The Fair. It has, indeed, been replaced by tractor transactions. However, there is still the exchange of some equines and bovines. Featured alongside this agricultural aspect, there is a midway featuring rides for the children, cultural and sporting events, and other exhibitions featuring local products. The Fair culminates in a spectacular fireworks extravaganza.