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Photo ©Stefano Cannas

Summer Medieval Festivals in Tuscany

Let's step into the past and live these hamlets as they used to be in the "Medioevo"

Have you ever tried to imagine how life was in Medieval times? Well, you don't have to imagine it anymore: you can be part of a real Medieval festival in Tuscany! Summer in Tuscany is like stepping back in time: countless cities and towns celebrate their traditions with re-enactments and medieval festivals. The Middle Ages have left a mark on our collective memory and that historic period continues to be kept alive through the ancient pilgrim route (via Francigena) and the structure of medieval hilltop villages. Usually, the Medieval Festivals take place during spring and summer in charming villages, so if you attend these events you will live a unique experience while visiting these must-see Tuscan towns.

Monteriggioni di Torri si Corona
Monteriggioni Medieval Festival Tuscany
Monteriggioni Medieval Festival Tuscany

Monteriggioni di Torri si Corona (in English, “Monteriggioni Crowned by Towers”, a quote from Dante Alighieri) is a festival that takes place in July for two consecutive long weekends. It's one of the most popular events in the Tuscan scene and the location is simply perfect! Visitors can exchange Euros into the local currency during Middle Ages (called "Grosso") to purchase food and beverage into the castle. In the streets there are craftsmen, people wearing medieval costumes, knights, dancers, musicians, and so on. 

This is the medieval festival website.

Balestro del Grifalco in Massa Marittima
Balestro del Girifalco
Balestro del Girifalco - Credit: Foto Bruno di Marcello Pepe

The "Balestro del Girifalco" (Gyrfalcon Archery) in Massa Marittima takes place twice a year: on the fourth Sunday in May and then on August 14th. During this event, 24 archers compete, 8 for each of the Terzieri in which the city is divided. The winning crossbow man will receive the gift of a symbolic golden arrow, while its Terziere is awarded with the "drappellone" (Medieval banner) painted silk. 

Volterra AD 1398
The archaeological Park "Enrico Fiumi" during Volterra AD 1398
The archaeological Park "Enrico Fiumi" during Volterra AD 1398

The 3rd and 4th Sunday of August the city will be animated by fiery warhorses, knights, noblemen, ladies, artisans and merchants, common people and peasants, flag-wavers and crossbow men, musicians and jesters to bring back the mysterious Middle Ages atmosphere to Volterra. The city of alabaster offers a very special program: medieval dinners, guided tours and, of course, tournaments crossbow and flag bearers.

Take a look at the "Things you can’t miss in Volterra.

Medievalis in Pontremoli
A Knight's Tale show
A Knight's Tale show - Credit: Fulvio Denevi

From August 17 to 20 the town of Pontremoli (Massa-Carrara) hosts Medievalis, an event that commemorates the arrival of Frederick II in Pontremoli in 1226. Four days of duels, exhibitions of falconers, dinners with traditional dishes and drinks, shows of flag-wavers, medieval dances and above all the "Challenge of the Cortina di Cazzaguerra": a daily tournament where the three historical districts (Sommoborgo, Immoborgo and Contado) challenge in different games, at the end of which the Palio will be handed over to the winning Contrada.

Here's the link to the official Medievalis website

Bravio delle botti in Montepulciano
- Credit: quinewsvaldichiana.it

The last Sunday of August Montepulciano features the “Bravìo delle Botti”, a traditional competition among the eight districts that compete in rolling 80 kg barrels up on a 1800 meter hill. For each team two men called “pushers” wind through the historic centre  pushing the barrels until they get to the finish line on the Duomo steps in Piazza Grande.

Curiosity: the name Bravìo comes from  “Bravium” that refers to the sacred image of San Giovanni Decollato depicted on a cloth. The team that wins the competition, receives this iconic prize.

Check out the official website to know all the details. 

Palio of the Archers in Pescia

Also the town of Pescia, in the surroundings of Pistoia, celebrates its origins with the Palio of the Archers. In which the 4 neighbourhoods of the town (Ferraia, S. Maria, S. Michele e S. Francesco) take part. From the end of August till the first weekend of September, you can taste the local food and watch the competitions, the shows of flag throwers and jugglers, the beauty contest for the most charming Medieval lady and play at the tournament "Ball to the Basket". The program of events is interesting for the whole family: the children will be entertained by Pinocchio, too.

Visit the Palio degli Arcieri website to know more.

Medieval Festival of Vicopisano
Vicopisano Medieval Fest
Vicopisano Medieval Fest - Credit: Official facebook page

The first edition of the Medieval Festival of Vicopisano dates back to 1996. At the beginning of September, the fascinating historical centre delves into the past thanks to beautiful costumes and decorations in occasion of an appealing program of events. Just to give you a hint, the square in front of the 14th-century Praetorian Palace hosts a famous medieval dinner that recalls the ancient traditions, from the recipes of the dishes that you can taste to the rules of the galateo (i.e. forks are not allowed!).

Take a look at the official website.

Palio della Balestra in Sansepolcro
Crossbow men in Tuscany
Crossbow men in Tuscany

We move to the Arezzo area to breathe the magical atmosphere of the Palio della Balestra. On the second Sunday of September the historic dispute between the crossbowmen of Sansepolcro and Gubbio takes place, in a picturesque scenery surrounded by the beautiful Renaissance palaces of Piazza Torre di Berta in Sansepolcro. According to ancient customs, in the morning, the herald reads the rules of the challenge to the rivals from Gubbio. In the afternoon, after the benediction of the weapons, the crossbow men of the two cities enter the square announced by the roll of the drums and the sound of the trumpets and the flag-wavers throw the coloured flags in the air, all representing the old neighborhoods. The archers of the two cities alternate and perform in their Renaissance costumes and in the silence, broken only by the sharp blows of the arrows that stick into the wooden target.

Check out the official website of the Palio della Balestra.

Are you going to Sansepolcro? Explore Valtiberina area, a charming valley near Arezzo.

Joust of the Saracens in Arezzo
Joust of the Saracens
Joust of the Saracens - Credit: Luca Deravignone

The Joust of the Saracens or Giostra del Saracino takes place in Arezzo twice a year, in June and in September. It was played during the Middle Ages as a military exercise and it has been revived in its actual form since 1931. Every city’s neighborhood (“Quartieri”) has a team of knights on horseback that, armed with lances, try to beat the “Buratto Re delle Indie" which is a wooden effigy representing a Saracen warrior.

Check out the official website of the Giostra del Saracino.

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