Joust of the Saracen: Inside Italy's Festivals

Taking the baton from Siena’s Il Palio, Arezzo’s medieval jousting tournament is like taking a ride in a time machine to the days of knights and maidens.

Location

Grande Piazza, Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy

Dates

Penultimate Saturday in June and first Sunday in September.

Description

Churches are decorated with pictures of 12th-century crusaders and the streets fill with costumes from an era predating even Giorgio Vasari, the Renaissance heavyweight who grew up here.

Following a blessing by the bishop on the steps on the 13th-century cathedral, the parade ends in the Grande Piazza, the venue for the afternoon’s archaic fun. Proceedings are begun by the sbandieratori (flag wavers), touting the standards so loved by territorial medieval types. The jousters and their horses sport the colours and symbols of Arezzo’s four districts, which are all hoping to win the Golden Lance. Rather than aiming their lances at each other, contestants score points by hitting a wooden target held by a carving of a Saracen (Islamic) king.

The tradition possibly derives from a jousting display held to honour a knight in the late 13th century, and was certainly going strong by the early 19th century.

Level of Participation

3 – don some breeches and watch the jousters charge.

Essentials

Wear a doublet or tunic for that heraldic look. 

Other Local Attractions

Arezzo was bombed heavily in WWII but many Renaissance and Gothic buildings still stand. The Chiesa di San Francesco contains frescoes by Piero della Francesca.

More Info: www.lagiostradelsaracino.it

Want to know more about Italy? Listen to the World Nomads podcast. A couple of places in Italy you won’t find in a guidebook – food that reduces you to tears – and what does it take to get your travel photos on the World Nomads Instagram page.

Couple eating food with chopsticks and smiling

Win a destination do-over for 2

Enter now

No Comments

Add a Comment