“Settembre lucchese” is the name of the traditional event organised by Lucca town council, which takes place in September every year and involves a whole series of events not to be missed that make Lucca the star of the show. Lucca gets all dressed up and hosts cultural, religious and folk events in the historic centre and the immediate outskirts, as well as fairs, banquets and commercial exhibitions. The festival of Santa Croce is far and away the event par excellence not just in Settembre lucchese, but all year round in the town. It is celebrated on the evening of 13 September with the traditional Luminaria di Santa Croce, the solemn procession in honour of the Volto Santo, the wooden crucifix kept in the Duomo, revered by the locals and carved - legend has it – in a Lebanon cedar by Nicodemus to hand down the semblance of Christ. The lovely evening procession – in which crossbowmen and players dressed in medieval costumes take part, as well as the local authorities – passes through the town, going from the basilica of S. Frediano to the Duomo di S. Martino. The entire route of the procession is lit with nightlights and candles placed on the facades of the old buildings, on the window ledges of houses and on shop signs to create a truly evocative and unforgettable setting. To finish off the sacred procession, it also isn’t lacking in the profane with the lovely fireworks. As the tradition goes, the following day, on 14 September, the day of Santa Croce, all the locals hasten to the cathedral to pay a visit to the chapel in which the Volto Santo is kept and to pray at the feet of the sacred effigy. However, Santa Croce isn’t just a religious festival; as we mentioned, it is also a great popular, traditional festival made up of folklore, fairs and markets – all of ancient origin – including the livestock fair in Monte San Quirico, the bird show, once in Piazza del Carmine, now in Borgo Giannotti, and the market in Piazza San Michele, which will offer excellent typical products of the short supply chain all month long, such as extra-virgin olive oil, DOC wines, honey and spelt. September is Lucca’s month, the month of the festival when all the locals are more than happy to welcome and guide you around their extraordinary town, a unique gem in Tuscany, a strong and proud town that will undoubtedly win you over.
(Portions of this article first appeared in "Toscana & Chianti News")