Top 25 historical events in Tuscany

In Tuscany, countless historic events are celebrated every year. Taking part in one of these events is the best way to find out more about Tuscany’s history. During these events, culture, food, wine and traditions blend together and you take a journey back in time. Here is a list to locate the best 25 historical events held in Tuscany:
  1. Palio of Siena: The Palio is held in Piazza del Campo, in the historic centre of Siena and it is an historical tradition that dates back to 1633. It happens every year without fail, on July 2 and August 16. It consists of an exciting horse race representing the different districts of the city. The winning team celebrates with dinners held in the streets of the “contrada” (district). 
    Palio di Siena [Photo credits: Janus Kinase]
    Palio di Siena [Photo credits: Janus Kinase]
  2. Palio of Buti: Buti’s Palio is a traditional festival held in the town of Buti (province of Pisa) and is one of the oldest horse palios in Italy. Its focus is a horse race conducted by jockeys representing the seven districts into which the town is divided. The race is held in the main road leading to the town and, in recent years, there has also been an historical parade in costume.
  3. Viareggio Carnival: This carnival dates back 141 years, with more than 400 parades and thousands of papier-mâché floats. Along the seafront, visitors can admire eye-catching floats, masquerade processions and hundreds of masked figures dancing on the floats. It is held for four consecutive Sundays in February.
  4. Piombino Carnival: The central figure of Piombino Carnival is “Cicciolo”, a papier-mâché mask that is burned in Piazza Bovio in front of thousands of people at the end of the event. 
    Cicciolo [Photo Credits: Carnevale di Piombino on Facebook]
    Cicciolo [Photo Credits: Carnevale di Piombino on Facebook]
  5. Castiglion Fibocchi Carnival or “Carnevale dei figli di Bocco”: Castiglion Fibocchi, a few kilometres from Arezzo, hosts the Carnival of the Sons of Bocco, an age-old event in which approximately 200 participants, dressed in fantastic costumes and with their faces concealed by precious papier-mâché masks, invite guests into another dimension. Here, you can find street performers, theatre, food stalls and fireworks over two days: Saturday evening with the talk by "King Bocco", which opens the carnival, and Sunday with all the masks scattered throughout the village, plus a parade.
  6. Florentine New Year: The traditional Florentine New Year is held on March 25 and begins with a morning parade in medieval dress to Palazzo Vecchio and music in the streets. The celebration continues in Piazza SS. Annunziata, where there is an outdoor market and an evening concert.
  7. Pisan New Year: Between the 10th century and 1749, Pisa’s New Year’s Day coincided with the Annunciation on March 25, exactly nine months before Christmas. For this reason, in Pisa the New Year is celebrated twice, and this peculiar celebration coincides with a sort of solar clock, a physical phenomenon that involves the Duomo in Piazza dei Miracoli. At midday, a ray of sunlight penetrates the Duomo through a round window and lands on a marble egg on a shelf surmounting a column next to the pulpit made by Giovanni Pisano, on the opposite side. 
    Pisan New Year [Photo Credits: Marco Conti]
    Pisan New Year [Photo Credits: Marco Conti]
  8. Palio dei Somari in Torrita di Siena: The Palio of Donkeys in Torrita di Siena is held on the feast day of St. Joseph (March 19). It is a popular festival in honour of the patron saint of carpenters, a widespread activity among local residents. The eight districts of Torrita of Siena fight for the Palio, which is a painted drape. There are also flag-wavers, a parade and performances.
  9. Balestro del Girifalco in Massa Marittima: In March, Massa Marittima returns to its golden age for the Balestro del Girifalco, an event that takes place twice a year. The festival was first held in the early years of the 14th century. The Balestro del Girifalco is a test of skill, speed and strength as 24 men battle for the glory of their terzieri. Competitors arm themselves with authentic replicas of 15th-century Italian crossbows, which their ancestors used at the first Balestro del Girifalco. More than 30 metres away, on the other side of Piazza del Duomo, sits a target. On its back is a painting of the festival’s namesake, the girifalco (gyrfalcon), its wings spread wide in flight. The competitor whose arrow hits closest to the centre of the target wins. 
    [Photo Credits: Ruben Charles]
    [Photo Credits: Ruben Charles]
  10. Gioco del Ponte in Pisa: Literally the Game of the Bridge, it is a battle of strength between Pisa’s northern and southern medieval rival districts, traditionally called Tramontana and Mezzogiorno, physically separated by the Arno river and linked by the Ponte di Mezzo. It always takes place on the last Sunday in June. Before the battle gets under way, there is a costumed parade.
  11. Luminara and San Ranieri historical regatta in Pisa: The Luminara di San Ranieri held is on June 16 along Pisa’s lungarni (riverside streets). On this occasion there are special illuminations on the eve of the patron saint's day, and over 120,000 wax candles are placed in glass cups and hung from wooden frames (known as ‘biancheria’). There is also a firework display at night. On June 17, there is a regatta race on the Arno between four boats representing Pisa's four historical quarters. 
    Luminara [Photo Credits: John Soqquadro]
    Luminara [Photo Credits: John Soqquadro]
  12. Giostra del Saracino in Arezzo: The Saracen Joust of Arezzo is an ancient game of chivalry that dates back to the Middle Ages, re-introduced in 1931 as a form of historical re-enactment set in the 14th century, and quickly acquired a competitive character. It takes place every year in Arezzo on the penultimate Saturday in June at night and on the first Sunday in September in the afternoon. It is a knights' tournament held in Piazza Grande.
  13. Florentine Calcio Storico: On June 24, Florence celebrates St. John the Baptist, the city’s patron saint. In the late afternoon there is an historical football match, known as Calcio Storico, which is played in Piazza Santa Croce, preceded by a parade through the historical centre. It involves four teams representing Florence’s neighbourhoods of Santa Croce, Santo Spirito, Santa Maria Novella and San Giovanni.
  14. Monteriggioni Medieval Festival: The aim of the festival held in July in Monteriggioni is to recreate a setting to transport the visitor back in time. There are people dressed in historical costumes, plus the chance to watch a tournament between 13th-century knights, a battle with piker men, halberdiers, infantrymen and harquebusiers. 
    Monteriggioni [Photo Credits: candido33]
    Monteriggioni [Photo Credits: candido33]
  15. Offerta dei Censi in Abbadia San Salvatore: The re-enactment of the offer of the census in Abbadia San Salvatore takes place for a full weekend in July. The event takes its name from an ancient tradition, according to which the lay community of Castel di Badia offered 'census' in nature and craft products to the Abbot as a form of thanksgiving and in recognition of his authority.
  16. Joust of the Bear in Pistoia: The Joust of the Bear or Giostra dell’Orso is held in the central piazza Duomo in Pistoia on July 25 every year. It is a modern twist on the ancient, traditional palio race, i.e. a re-enactment of the medieval jousting tournament. 
    Joust of the Bear in Pistoia [Photo Credits: Giovanni Battista Salvietti]
    Joust of the Bear in Pistoia [Photo Credits: Giovanni Battista Salvietti]
  17. Effetto Venezia in Livorno: Effetto Venezia is the traditional summer festival of Livorno held for ten days in the month of July. The event takes place in the famous Venezia neighbourhood with its peculiar canals and consists in a series of shows in the squares and the streets and stands with many products.
  18. Palio Marinaro dell’Argentario: The Palio Marinaro is the famed maritime race held on August 15 at Porto Santo Stefano, in Mount Argentario. There are many legends concerning the Argentario and the one connected to the palio sees its origins in the struggle for survival of the fishermen of Porto Santo Stefano against the pirates who infested the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Palio Marinaro consists of a rowing regatta (4 rowers and one coxswain) pitting four boats, called "guzzi" (classic fishing boat) with the name of four winds (Maestrale, Grecale, Libeccio and Scirocco) representing the four districts of the town. 
    Palio Marinaro dell’Argentario [Photo Credits: Marco Solari on<br />Ente Palio Marinaro dell'Argentario]
    Palio Marinaro dell’Argentario [Photo Credits: Marco Solari on
    Ente Palio Marinaro dell'Argentario]
  19. Bravio delle botti in Montepulciano: The last Sunday in August in Montepulciano features the “Bravìo delle Botti” traditional competition that sees the eight districts compete while rolling 80 kg barrels up a 1800 meter hill. Two men called “pushers” who wind through the historic centre until they get to the finish line on the Duomo steps in Piazza Grande push the barrels.
  20. Volterra AD: Every 3rd and 4th Sunday of August Volterra jumps back to medieval times: knights and horses, noble ladies and gentlemen, minstrels and peasants, archers and flag flyers make you feel like being in the 14th century. City inhabitants dress in medieval costumes and you have the possibility to do a guided tour of the medieval town. 
    Volterra AD 1398 [Photo Credits: Volterra AD 1398]
    Volterra AD 1398 [Photo Credits: Volterra AD 1398]
  21. Rificolona in Florence: On September 7 the city of Florence organises the Festa della Rificolona, an authentic and original Florentine feast which is still deeply felt as a popular tradition of ancient folklore. The feast apparently dates back to the mid seventeenth century, and can be connected with the arrival in the city of throngs of peasants and mountain-dwellers, who would descend on the city from the surrounding countryside and from the most isolated mountainous areas of Casentino and the Montagna Pistoiese to celebrate the feast of Our Lady in the Church of the Santissima Annunziata.
  22. Luminara di Santa Croce in Lucca: Santa Croce (Holy Cross) is the feast of the city and all the people of Lucca, when the city strongly manifests its identity. The Feast of the Holy Cross is a celebration of deep intensity of faith, in which citizens and institutions come together under the sign of the Volto Santo (Holy Face), the sacred icon that has represented the city since the Middle Ages, one of the points of reference for religiosity across Europe. Lucchese September developed with the celebration of the Holy Cross, and it is the time in which the city retraces its traditions, including religious and civil markets, festivals and processions. 
    Santa Croce procession [Antonio Pitasi]
    Santa Croce procession [Antonio Pitasi]
  23. The Siege of the Villa in Poggio a Caiano: This historic re-enactment takes place in September at the Medici Villa of Poggio a Caiano, in the province of Prato. The Medici Villa at Poggio a Caiano was built by Lorenzo the Magnificent and became the favourite villa of his son. Duchess Joanna of Austria stayed at the villa in 1565 in preparation for her wedding to Prince Francesco de’ Medici, whose father, Cosimo I, had just given him control of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The marriage between Prince Francesco De' Medici and Duchess Joanna of Austria, who was neither very intelligent nor very beautiful, was a decisive political and diplomatic success. The arrival of the illustrious guest was organized carefully due to the international spotlight the marriage would cast on Florence. The “Siege” re-enacts the journey Joanna’s carriage made from Innsbruck to Poggio a Caiano, complete with costumes, flag throwers, dancers, music and more.
  24. Palio delle Balestra in Sansepolcro: The Palio della Balestra (crossbow palio) is held every year on the second Sunday in September in Sansepolcro, in the Arezzo province. On this occasion, a large number of citizens dress in medieval costumes and the historical competition takes place between the crossbowmen of Sansepolcro and their eternal friends/enemies in Gubbio in the setting of the Piazza Torre di Berta. The competition requires ability and cold blood to hit the bull’s-eye of the target with these antique weapons from a distance of 36 metres. 
    Procession before Palio della Balestra [Photo Credits: Georgette Jupe]
    Procession before Palio della Balestra [Photo Credits: Georgette Jupe]
  25. Historic “Gioco del Pozzo” in Montevarchi: Every year, on the first Sunday in September, Montevarchi in the province of Arezzo relives the traditional Festa del Perdono (Feast of Forgiveness) accompanied by the “Gioco del Pozzo” in Piazza Varchi. The game originated with the need to determine who had priority among the four gonfalons of the historic city to draw water during the dry months. The game itself consists of each team trying to hit the bull’s-eye in the centre of the well.