Each year, Sansepolcro reaffirms its Renaissance identity with the Feste del Palio that culminate in the Palio della Balestra between Gubbio and Sansepolcro which takes place on the second Sunday in September.
On this occasion, around 80 crossbowmen take turns at the shooting stations, aiming at the bulletta del corniolo, the precise center of the bullseye. This shooting challenge is well documented back to 1594, but there are other reliable historic sources that confirm that it took place even before then; this Palio is therefore an undisputed, longstanding local tradition.
The day of the Palio della Balestra, a centuries-old challenge between the “soldiers” of Sansepolcro and those of Gubbio, is packed with events. Things begin in the morning with the exit of the messenger and a reading of the competition announcements. In the afternoon the Palio begins and in the evening the Court procession moves through the historic center of Sansepolcro, honoring the winner. Throughout the day, you can move through the Sant’Egidio Market along the streets of the center—this is a costumed, faithful reconstruction of a Renaissance-era marketplace.
In general, throughout the month of September, the city bursts with fascinating cultural initiatives and performances involving all of the historic associations of the city, from sport challenges, musical performances, dances, conferences, historic processions and events that each year capture the enthusiasm of residents and thousands of tourists.
The evening preceding the Palio, for example, offers a moment dedicated to the flag throwing group of Sansepolcro, famous throughout the world for their extraordinary choreography and the abilities of their standard bearers. Known as the Gruppo Sbandieratori Sansepolcro, composed of flag throwers, drummer boys and costumed figures, they use hand-painted flags and wear costumes produced by qualified theater dressmakers. In addition to the manual-coded exercises, the flag-throwers take inspiration from the geometry of Piero della Francesca.