Master Wafer-makers at Calcinaia

Calcinaia is a town on the Arno valley to the east of Pisa. In June 2006 the ancient guild of the Mastri Cialdonai were invited to join in the historic procession weaving its way through this picturesque place. A cialda is a kind of hard wafer made by squeezing a flour mixture between red-hot scissor-like irons. Often, these irons are embossed and the resulting wafer can be very decorative.

Incidentally, Cialda is also the name given to those packets one places into automatic coffee-making machines and is also what some of the larger and tastier ice-cream cones are called.

There is a “costume” centre run by the association who organises the event and I was suitably fitted up as a renaissance lord.


 Our presence formed only the precursor to the main celebration, which is a historic Regatta in honour of Saint Ubaldesca, the town’s patron saint.This regatta has been running since the nineteenth century and involves three rioni (or town districts) called “Montecchio”, “Oltrarno” and “la Nave”. The proceedings are livened by a market, live music and other entertainments. “La Nave”.

Who was saint Ubaldesca? She was a nun, born in Calcinaia in 1136 and who died in Pisa in 1205. Interestingly, she belonged to the military order of Malta. Her saint’s day occurs on May 28th.


St Ubaldesca distinguished herself through her ascetic practices and her care of the sick and needy. Among her most famous miracles was the transmutation of water into wine in the well of the round church of the Holy Sepulchre in Pisa. – I must ask where exactly this well situated next time I’m in the area…

These photos were taken in June 2006 and a fun time was had by all. This is surely another festival which we should return to enjoy.