Italy of carousels and regattas2 October 2018


Name a city, get a festival

Spring and summer in Italy are synonyms for outdoor events. Ancient traditions awake, recalling and celebrating small and large city events, each of which is a piece in the multicolored mosaic of the long and fragmented history of our country. Regattas, historical parades, palios, carousels and re-enactments: Italy draws oxygen from these ritual events (sometimes anachronistic) that animate its coasts, municipalities and medieval villages, districts, neighborhoods.

There are nine major palios and rides of the Peninsula even if the article will give precedence to only three of these. First of all the Palio of Asti (Piedmont) the second week of September, of which there are testimonies since 1275; the Palio of Ferrara, the last Sunday of May and held since 1259, the year in which the guelph Marquis Azzo VII d’Este triumphed over the ghibelline Ezzelino III da Romano (which, among other things, Dante placed in Hell, in the company of the violent against other people); the Palio of Siena Italian Palio “par excellence”, the most famous medieval equestrian race of the globe (we have news from the beginning of the XIII century) that takes place on 2 July and 16 August; the Palio di Fermo – also called “Cavalcata dell’Assunta”, “Corso dei Berberi” or “Palio dei Corsieri” – takes place, like that of Siena, in honor of the Madonna Assunta on August 15th; the Quintana of Ascoli (Piceno) takes place in the Campo Squarcia on the first Sunday of August to celebrate the patron saint of the beautiful town of the Marches, Sant’Emidio; the Palio dei Normanni is held in Piazza Armerina, in the province of Enna, on 12, 13 and 14 August. The event recalls the reconquest of the island by the Normans, who tore it from the Saracens occupation between 1061 and 1091.

Giostra dell’Orso – July 25th

The Giostra dell’Orso takes place in the center of Pistoia every 25 July, the day of San Jacopo, Saint Patron of the city. It is an exciting challenge between the historic districts of the city and is disputed in the central Piazza del Duomo that for the occasion is transformed into a track with an oval central circuit, in which horses will run, and stands for the spectators. 3 riders participate at the ride for each district (10 in total), who compete two by two trying to shoot down with their lance a target in the shape of a bear. The race consists of 18 rounds and wins the district that wins more points, which are awarded in these ways: three points to the first rider who pulls down the bear, a point on the second and no point to those who do not hit the bear. The rider who gets the most points is proclaimed “Knight Speron d’oro”, while the winner district wins the Palio.


Giostra del Saracino – penultimate Saturday of June / 1st Sunday of September

The Giostra of Saracino in Arezzo is one of the oldest medieval events in Italy (Dante speaks of it at the beginning of the XXII canto of the Inferno) in which the four districts of the city that participate are Porta Santo Spirito, Porta Crucifera, Porta del Foro and Porta Sant’Andrea. The aim of the race is to strike with a lance the shield of the “Buratto”, a puppet representing the King of the Indies, making it rotate on itself with a spring mechanism, and paying attention to dodge the flail embraced by the silhouette. Each district has two riders and is entitled to two races: the shield of the Buratto is divided into various parts that correspond to the scores, but if you are hit by the flail you are penalized. The district winning more points will be awarded the Lancia d’Oro. The carousel is preceded by a historical procession with 300 participants.

Giostra della Quintana: mid-June and “revenge” mid-September

The event is organized in Foligno every year the second Saturday in June, when the first “carousel” takes place, while the next, that of “revenge”, takes place on the afternoon of the second Sunday in September. The carousel takes place by having the horses and riders perform some field turns inside the ancient stadium of Foligno (called “Campo de li Giochi”) that must be completed in the shortest possible time, trying to parade three times in a row a ring – which shrinks at each round – from the statue that depicts the god Mars, also called in the Foligno dialect “Quintanone”. The laps will have to take place according to a specific modality and without penalties that would lead to disqualification. Each edition foresees two weeks of entertainment with parades and historical re-enactments, goliardic challenges and good food from the Umbrian tradition.

The modern carousel is the historical re-enactment of the first one, dating February 10, 1613. The term “quintana” is a legacy of Roman military terminology, by the name of the “castrum”. This was a place where soldiers practiced with their spears, aiming at the center of a ring hanging from a puppet.


Barcolana – second Sunday of October

Thirteen miles of route starting between Barcolana and Miramare and a scenic arrival in the heart of Trieste, in Piazza Unità d’Italia. A ten days event that this year celebrates the golden anniversary: fifty years ago the first edition, organized by the Velica Company of Barcola and Grignano, with 51 boats in the water. Last year there were 2,101 sails ready to be hoisted at the cannon shot that started the race. A world record for a single departure – which brought 25 thousand people to the sea and 300 thousand spectators on the ground – and which has made the Barcolana the largest regatta in the world.