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Special Feature: The Bandierai degli Uffizi: a piece of history of the Florentine identity

ViolaNation member and Fiorentino, Maurizio Gamberucci proudly tells us about the tradition his family is part of today

Bandierai degli Uffizi performing pregame
Courtesy of Carlo Bressan

About our special guest author:

Maurizio Gamberucci was born and raised in Florence. He moved to the U.S. in 2013. Tuscany to Houston, TX one way, so far... Viola to the bone, he doesn’t miss a game every time he travels to Italy, home or away from home.

He is the Deputy Director of the Italy America Chamber of Commerce of Texas, devoted to the promotion of authentic Italian food & wine. He joined ViolaNation after running into a group of great Fiorentina fans from Philly at a game in New Jersey. Turned out they were the writers... Just thought their passion was awesome!

To understand the roots of the Bandierai degli Uffizi we need to go back to the 16th century, back when the magistrate and offices (Uffizi) were the local authorities under the powerful Florentine Republic. The community’s social and economic life was ruled by 16 different administrative departments, including the magistracy of honesty, charged with keeping virtue in the public, and the masters of salt, responsible for collecting the salt tax, who assured a relatively democratic political environment.

Each of these sixteen offices were characterized by insignia presented on banners and flags that were proudly carried by professional wavers and bearers during official occasions as symbols of power, identity, and authority.

A strong and proud sense of belonging was - and still is – a clear trait of the Florentine identity. Local history still celebrates the match of Calcio Storico (the Historical Florentine Football), held on February 17, 1530, in defiance of the imperial troops sent by Charles V as the city was under siege. The heraldic insignia were proudly flapping in the wind.

All right reserved by Bandierai degli Uffizi
Bandierai degli Uffizi

Story has it that in 1973, a few hundred years later, the historical founder of the Bandierai degli Uffizi, Cavalier Luciano Artusi, discovered old flags and banners in a remote area in the church of Santa Maria Novella depicting the original insignia of the Magistrate. He proposed the idea of organizing a group of flag-waivers to bring back the tradition.

Since that moment, flag waivers have been passionately involved and traditionally trained to carry on the ancient rituals and typical Bandierai exercises, such as: the “Salto del Fiocco”(Jump of Flake), the “Rovescio”(Backhand), the “Onda” (Wave) and the impressive “Passaggio sottogamba ed intorno al collo ed alla vita” (Step under leg, around the neck, and the waist).

They honor Marzocco, the heraldic lion and totemic symbol of the power of the Florentine Republic by performing during official celebrations in Florence and around the world. As a sign of their love and passion, in 2014 the Bandierai degli Uffizi led a fund-raising campaign aimed at restoring the Leone del Marzocco statue in Piazza della Signoria, Florence.

A book, dedicated to the restoration process of the cultural icon, describes what the Marzocco represents: “to us, the Marzocco means a lot of things… it means the Symbol of belonging to the city of Florence, together with the Giglio Rosso on a white background, it means pride…”. (Marzocco, il Leone di Fiorenza. Una storia di amore e passione - Bandierai degli Uffizi, 2014)

Leone del Marzocco in Piazza della Signoria
Picture courtesy of Enrico Bicci

This tradition of the Florentine Republic is deeply rooted in today’s contemporary urban culture and the local Football team, ACF Fiorentina, is not immune. Since his acquisition of the team, Rocco Commisso has promptly embraced their passion and enthusiasm, leading him to be named the 2019 “Magnifico Messere”. Acting as the symbolic Master of Ceremonies, he read the historic words declaring the start of to the Calcio Storico final on June 24th, a day dedicated to San Giovanni (John the Baptist), the town’s patron saint.

As they have traditionally been for decades, the Bandierai degli Uffizi were there performing as the one and only flag-waving group of the Corteo Storico (Historical Parade) of the Florentine Republic. On this occasion they awarded Rocco with a Lion of Marzocco statue, adopting him as honorary member of the Bandierai. Rocco now guards the Marzocco statue in his office in Mediacom, NY.

The bond between the Bandierai and ACF Fiorentina is now stronger than ever. Before every home game at the Artemio Franchi Stadium in Campo di Marte, the Bandierai wave the traditional Florentine Republic flags, as they have been for years.

Picture courtesy of Carlo Bressan

Today, the Bandierai degli Uffizzi have more than 80 active members from 10 to 70 years old; 20 of whom are teenagers or younger. They form a committed team of drum players, talented flag-wavers, and proud banner bearers.

They are the only organization of flag-wavers officially representing the city of Florence and the related historical parades locally and all over the world. You can find them regularly performing in Florence during these festivities:

  • Cavalcata dei Magi (Epiphany, Jan 6)
  • Florentine New Year’s Eve (March 25)
  • Scoppio del Carro – “Explosion of the Cart” (Easter)
  • Marzocco’s Trophy – (Flag-wavers’ competition - May)
  • Calcio Storico Fiorentino (June 24, day dedicated to the town’s patron saint, San Giovanni (John the Baptist).
  • Saint Reparata Celebration (October 8);
  • Christmas time (December).

The Bandierai degli Uffizi are not new to the U.S. either. In 1976, an impressive team of 175 members were part of the festivities for the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, on Columbus Day in New York City. In 1982, three different groups of the Bandierai performed in the Columbus Day parades in New York City, San Francisco and Chicago.

Almost 4 decades have passed since their last presence… We look forward to seeing the Bandierai degli Uffizi performing in the United States again soon!

Viva Fiorenza!

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