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Sardine Day in Florence

April 1st is the favorite date of all pranksters across many countries like the UK, France, Italy, Finland, Austria, Germany, and more. It is a tradition loved by all that never fails to leave a smile in the faces of its hapless victims.

It is known as April Fools’ Day in the UK; as Día das Mentiras (day of lies) in Portugal and Brazil; and as April Fish in Italy, France, Wallonia, and Switzerland.

But what is the real story behind this practice? Where did the tradition of April 1st originate?

sardina florencia

Well, the theories are many. One of the most popular ones states that it has its origins in France, after the Edict of Roussillon changed the date of New Year’s Day (but “fools” continued to celebrate the new year from March 25th through to April 1st).

But there’s a different theory that states it started in Italy…

If you are well-acquainted with Italy, you’ll know that Tuscany is also renowned for its special sense of humor. And according to this theory, this charming tradition finds its origins in Florence, precisely.

From a young age, Italians spend hours devising pranks to play on their friends and family. And Italy’s April Fish (Pesce d’aprile in Italian) gives one the chance to have a laugh at anyone’s expense, always ending in a resounding “April Fish!”

And so we wonder about the history of its name… Why April Fish?

As the story goes, there seems to have been a tradition in Florence to send fools every first of April to buy fish at a marketplace where there was nothing but an effigy of a fish.

One of the best-known April Fish pranks in Italy is that played by master Buoncompagno da Firenze towards the end of the 13th century, when he announced to all inhabitants of Bologna that by the first of April he would have flown over the city. When everyone was up on Mount St. Mary, waiting to see the flight of the master, the huge wings he was wearing were lifted into the air by a gust of wind.

In March 1878, Italy’s La Gazzetta announced that something new and exciting would take place in Florence on April 1st: city dwellers would be able to witness the cremation of an Indian Maharaja. But when people gathered at the appointed site, the cremation never took place, and instead a group of boys shouted “Arno fried fish!”

Ahh… Florence! What a beautiful and exciting city!

And you, do you know any old prank stories?