If you go to Florence, check on internet if there are some festivals or religious festivities: it can be really interesting to see this kind of things. One of the most curious one, for example, is the so-called “Scoppio del Carro”.
The “Scoppio del Carro”, or the “explosion of the cart” in English, is a ceremony which takes place in Florence mixing pagan and religious elements. It marks both Easter and spring, and all the good things of the years, such as the successful ignition of the cart guarantees good crops and a wonderful stable civic life and bountiful trade. It also represents the passage of the new holy fire which lights the Good Friday.
You will see a hirty-foot painted cart made by wood being pulled by flower- bedecked white oxen from Porta al Prato to Piazza del Duomo. Then, a mechanical dove flies down through the open doors of the cathedral to pick up picks up the fire at the altar, and returns to the cart, igniting the explosion of one some day-time fireworks, which are actually considered one of the best ones.
The origin of the festivity is actually pretty old, and the dove was started to be use only later, during the pontificate of Leo X (whose real name was Giovanni de’ Medici). For the first time it was introduced a mechanical bird called “colombina”, which was shaped like a dove having an olive branch in its beak.
During the “Gloria” song on the Easter Mass, the Pope also started to use the holy fire, which was kindled from the stone chips obtained during the crusades, to light a fuse attached to the dove. Even today the deacon does it, also pointing out that the crusades got the stone chips from the Holy Sepulcher where Jesus came back from the Dead.