There’s a feeling of magic in the air! Italy’s Medieval fest season is upon us, like a fairy tale come alive! Knights, damsels, and court jesters. Feasting, with music and drummers. Medieval games, horse races, and parades with flags and torches. And it’s easy to imagine yourself the velvet clad Lord, or Lady in silk, off to dine with the king in his castle!
So if perchance you find yourself in Italy, join in the magic by choosing a festival to attend! Or stay for the whole season, which lasts mostly from April through October. Or mayhap you’ll decide to attend them all!
Italy’s Four Most Famous Medieval Festivals:
1. The Palio of Siena (Tuscany)
One of Italy’s most well-known festivals, and well-loved for its horse race in the main square, Piazza del Campo. A special and unique experience for horse lovers, and non! It’s held on both July 2nd and August 16th. But be forewarned. With horses racing along Sienna’s narrow streets, it can get rather hair raising!
2. The Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea (Piedmont)
This unusual battle, which took place in Piedmont, marks the uprising against Ranieri, a cruel tyrant, who claimed the barbaric Aristocratic right to sleep with brides on their wedding night. Until, legend has it, a girl named Violetta rebelled against the law. The real oranges nine teams pelt at each other during this festival symbolize his head, which the fearless girl supposedly lopped off with a dagger!
Medieval festivals are a delight to attend, granting a chance to visit the past. And though they do have a magical feel to them, the story of this brave girl certainly reminds us that the times weren’t so magical after all!
3. La Quintana of Ascoli Piceno (Le Marche)
Look for this festival in the Marche, which features horse races and sports, on the first Sunday of August. Such as the Medieval sport of jousting where the rider tries to hit a rotating dummy, to keep the dummy from knocking him off his horse with its ball and chain. Sounds pretty dangerous, if you ask me!
4. The Game of the Bridge (Pisano in Piedmont)
This ancient Tuscan tradition, much like the children’s game King of the Mountain, dates back to 1568. Teams from various neighborhoods battle to push a wooden trolley into enemy territory. And the winners, of course, becoming kings of the bridge over the Arno River
And here in our region of Abruzzo.
The most famous of our festivals is the Medieval pageant and horse race of Lanciano, held in September. But the Flower Festival of Buchianico is the among the most original. Held on the third Sunday of May, it reenacts a 13th century military stratagem which saved the town from destruction.