Festivals and folklore, the most beautiful traditional in Tuscany
From Palio di Siena to the Giostra del Saracino in Arezzo, all events not to be missed
For fans of traditional medieval jousts and tournaments and re-enactments of ancient folk customs, August and September are months particularly rich in festivals and folklore. Let's discover together those not to be missed.
Palio dell’Imperatore di Suvereto
Since 1994, an edition of the Palio dell'Imperatore has also been held on 13 August at night, to allow the thousands of tourists on the Costa Etrusca to appreciate the spectacular race and the local gastronomy. It is held in memory of the Holy Roman Emperor Arrigo VII of Luxembourg, who died suddenly and mysteriously in Buonconvento (Siena) during a military campaign to put the Italic seignories in line. His remains stayed for some time in the castle of Suvereto.
Bruscello di Montepulciano
From 12 to 15 August, the Bruscello Poliziano, a historic popular theatre event that this year brings the Decameron back to the Piazza Grande in Montepulciano, returns. A particularly cheerful and entertaining Bruscello, but the pandemic years have further delayed its return.
A competition between the Contrade of Siena in the form of an equestrian joust of medieval origin. The 'carriera', as the race is traditionally called, normally takes place twice a year: on 2 July, the Palio is run in honour of the Madonna di Provenzano feast of the Visitation in the ancient calendar, and on 16 August that in honour of Our Lady of the Assumption.
Bravìo delle botti in Montepulciano
On the last Sunday of August, the traditional Bravìo delle Botti takes place in Montepulciano, a historical re-enactment of a challenge between the eight town districts, which in the past competed with horses and today with barrels. The barrels, weighing about 80 kg each, are pushed and rolled by two athletes for each contrada, called 'spingitori', along the uphill route of about 1,800 metres that winds its way through the picturesque streets of the historic centre of the city of Pistoia to the finish line located on the parvis of the cathedral in Piazza Grande.
The race is traditionally preceded by a well-kept and fascinating historical procession of more than three hundred figurants that moves along the same route, offering flag-waving and images of times gone by.
Astiludio in Volterra
Strolling through Volterra on the first Sunday in September, one feels as if one has gone back six centuries in time, amidst soldiers and crossbowmen, knights and madonnas, heralds and standard-bearers, multicoloured flags twirling to the accompaniment of drum rolls and the ringing of clarions, in a truly unique setting. At exactly 3.15 p.m. all the bells of the contrade ring at the same time, and it is at that moment that the four processions from as many gates of the medieval city make their way to the square to start the tournament.
Giostra del Saracino in Arezzo
The Giostra del Saracino is contested in Arezzo's Piazza Grande twice a year: on the penultimate Saturday of June, at night, dedicated to San Donato, the patron saint of Arezzo, and for this reason called the 'Giostra di San Donato', and on the first Sunday of September, during the day, dedicated to the sacred image of the Madonna del Conforto, the patron saint of Arezzo, and for this reason called the 'Giostra della Madonna del Conforto'. This is an ancient chivalrous competition, which has its origins in the Middle Ages and consists of hitting a target, placed on the shield that Buratto (a revolving automaton impersonating the 'King of the Indies') holds on his left arm with a spear stroke at the end of a fast career on horseback. This is done without being hit by the mace, which Buratto himself holds in his right arm, which is activated by a spring mechanism that increases the rotating action already imparted by the knight's blow.
Balestro del Girifalco in Massa Marittima
A spectacular competition between the crossbowmen of the town's districts takes place every year on the fourth Sunday in May and the second Sunday in August in the beautiful medieval town in the Maremma hinterland. It consists of a target shooting competition (called Corniolo or Tasso and fixed on a large portrait of the Girifalco) with the ancient Italian-style crossbow.