Want to go back to the Middle Ages? In Tuscany you can. If you visit the region in the Summer you’ll find many festivals to choose from, where the present gets forgotten and people crave ancient stories and magic.
All the colour and feeling of Medieval times is brought back in special events that bring towns and villages to life with costumes, banners, games and historical re-enactments. Here we explore the popular Monteriggioni Festival (held every year in July), Volterra AD 1389 (every year in August) and the Saracen Joust in Arezzo.
3 Summer Medieval Festivals in Tuscany
MONTERIGGIONI MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL, (5-8 July and 13-15 July 2018)
The full name of this festival is “Monteriggioni di torri si corona”, literally meaning ‘Monteriggioni crowns itself with towers’. Inside the Medieval walls, watched over by its mighty towers, the hamlet of Monteriggioni near Siena returns to its former glory and relives a time when knights, damsels and jugglers used to walk its streets.
You’ll find ancient crafts, Medieval music concerts, historical reenactments, jugglers’ shows, and Medieval dishes on the tables. This is one of Tuscany‘s most popular festivals. It doesn’t get more Medieval than this (tickets cost 11-13 Euros, see official site).
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VOLTERRA MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL (12th-19th August 2018)
In the “Volterra Festival AD 1398” the clocks are turned back to the end of the 14th century, when this scenic town in Tuscany was struggling for its independence from Florence. The historic centre and the Parco di Castello park, which is dominated by an imposing Fortress, dress up for the part with banners, flags and even Medieval tents.
Held on the second and third Sunday of August, from 11am to 11pm, the Medieval festival puts on various events, such as flag throwing, and craft markets. Hundreds of jugglers, peasants, damsels and noblemen give you the unique chance to embrace the spirit of the Middle Ages.
GIOSTRA del SARACINO in AREZZO, 23rd June and 2nd September 2018
Would you like to be a spectator at a real Medieval joust? In Arezzo you can. Every Summer the town prepares for this exciting festival that sees horses and riders compete in a real Medieval-style ‘giostra‘ complete with lances, historic costumes, flags and jaunty medieval music.
On 23rd June and 2nd September, the beautiful Piazza Grande, in the main square of the town, becomes the stage for an exciting tournament that pits four rival neighbourhoods against each other. The knights on their horses have to hit a wooden target held by a mannequin in the shape of a Saracen (that tries to hit back with its weapon, three metal balls attached to a chain). There is a parade before the joust, with hundreds of participants dressed in historic costumes. Flag throwers and musicians lend it all a bit of extra atmosphere.
The Giostra del Saracino, or Saracen Joust, takes place on the penultimate Saturday in June – At 8.30pm the parade leaves Piazza Duomo to reach Piazza Grande where the joust starts at 9.30. Also on the first Sunday in September – Starts at 3pm in Piazza Duomo from where the costume parade reaches Piazza Grande and the joust begins – 5pm.
Tickets start at 10 euros for standing room. Seats are more expensive (from 30 to 70 euros). More info on the official site.
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Love of the Medieval
These three festivals are among the most popular in Tuscany and have a long tradition. The Middle Ages have never quite left these places, and between the architecture and the atmosphere it’s very easy to feel like you’ve travel back in time. You can enjoy flag throwing shows, an art which dates back to Medieval guilds.
In Medieval time the ‘giostre‘ or jousts were originally part of military training, where noble knights would fight each other to show off their skills. Later in the 16th century, they became real spectacles with parades and shows exactly like the one in Arezzo today.
A few practical tips
Expect crowds, and plenty of excitement. If you decide to visit plan in advance as it’s better to arrive early and book accommodation in the area with plenty of time. There are car parks just outside these towns’s historic centre, but it’s still better to give yourself a bit of time.
If you’re travelling with small kids, it’s worth remembering that the crowds can make it practically impossible to move around with push chairs.