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History of Italian Fireworks

Italians love all things beautiful – its part of their DNA, but never more so that with Fireworks which also reflect the Italian art of sheer extravagance. Most of the display fireworks seen around this beautiful country are predominantly silver and gold with a very small amount of colour.

Following the ‘accidental’ discovery of black powder in 10th century China, it wasn’t very long until beautiful fireworks were making their way over to Europe, thanks mainly to the exploits of the Mongolian Army. History says that in the mid 13th century, the Mongol leader Ghengis Khan sent his leaders Subutai and Batu Khan to take on the army of Hungary which were supported by armed forces from Germany, Poland and the former Czechoslovakia in a bloody battle which was eventually won by the Mongol army with their ‘fire rats’ and ‘dragon carts’ which both depended heavily on explosives.

There are various ‘historical documents’ that say that Marco Polo, the Italian merchant traveller and explorer, brought the first fireworks into Italy in the late 13th century. However, it was almost 50 years after the death of Marco Polo that the first recorded ‘fireworks display’ was detailed in 1379 in Vincenza where ‘winged creatures’ emitting sparks as they ran along a series of ropes. Later, they created castles, animals and other structures using wood and set the fireworks onto them.

Through the next couple of centuries, there were only around 60/70 people across Europe who had the expertise to put on displays. One such team were the Rugieri Brothers. In 1740, King Louis XV of France brought the brothers from Italy to his magnificent Palace in Versailles to help in the celebrations of the wedding of his grandson Louis XVI to Marie Antoinette. He ordered the creation of a truly legendary display ever seen throughout the Baroque Period. In May 1770, the skies over Versailles were lit up with 20,000 rockets and 6,000 mortars creating bursts of up to 300 metres.

The simple fascination with fireworks has continued throughout the years with Italian flair being at the heart of some of the biggest and best display companies in the World and they remain proud of their heritage which opened up the field of pyrotechnics to the rest of Europe. It is not therefore unusual to learn that some of the biggest are the likes of Parente, Grucci, Zambelli, Fazzoni, Rozzi, Cartiano and de Sousa, all Italian or Italian-American.

Italian Fireworks families are specialist designers and display professionals who still take inspiration from the displays of years gone by from historical data and drawings from the 16th to the 18th Century. However, today, with technology advancing at an astounding rate, they can still use the old school thinking and apply it to today’s display requirements as however you look at it, there has been very little change in the last couple of hundred years in how fireworks are made and designed.

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