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This post is for all the little girls who dreamed of one day being whisked away by a handsome knight on a white stallion… …And all the little boys who wanted to be that knight wielding a big sword!
If you come to the Tuscan Region I can tell you that hands down two of my favorite places are Arezzo and Siena. My good friend Barbara just happens to live in Arezzo so I get to go and stay there any time I want. Arezzo is a smaller city nestled in the hills of Tuscany. There are about 100,000 residents here and it is located about 80km’ or a short 1 hour train ride from Florence. It’s a tad cooler than Florence in the summer, so of course this makes it a nice place to visit during the hot summer months. I find that because the it is smaller than Florence the people also tend to be a bit more friendly. Arezzo was originally an Etruscan village that was sacked by the Romans around 300 BC, about the same time the Romans seemed to be doing most of the “sacking.” I could give you a history lesson but you can find it on Wikipedia, so I won’t bore you…
One of the big events in Arezzo is the Giostra del Saracino (The Joust of the Saracins.) It’s a BIG deal here! The whole city comes out twice a year (Sep. and Jun) to watch 8 men compete in a jousting tournament between the four quarters of Arezzo for the Lancia d’Oro (The Golden Lance.)
- Porta Crucifera known as Culcitrone(green and red colors),
- Porta del Foro known as Porta S.Lorentino(yellow and crimson colors),
- Porta Sant’Andrea (white and green colors) and
- Porta del Borgo, today called Porta Santo Spirito (yellow and blue colors).
- (This was stolen from Wikipedia…)
Before I arrived in Arezzo my friend Barbara told me that I had to wear the “colors” of the quarter we were supporting, Blue and Yellow, for Santo Spirito. This isn’t even her quarter so I felt like a bit of an ass walking out of her apartment, through the crimson and yellow quarter to get to the parade. Barbara explained to me that for many years Santo Spirito Quartiere hadn’t been winning jousts because of the two “old guys” (her words) who wouldn’t give up their seats and had been underdogs for a while, then finally last year they retired and left up to two younger men who started winning the joust… They are on their third win in a row! (Unheard of usually int his difficult sport.) Barbara’s cousin’s were in town from Parma so for me this exceptionally fun because they speak very little English and I got the chance to practice my Italian! An added bonus is that my friend Barbara likes to cook, so I get to eat and it’s usually a lot of really good food!!!
In the early afternoon there is a huge parade and blessings and fanfare, but I decided to take the later train and miss that parade because I brought Shane along. For the second act, we walked into town, through the Porta San Lorentino quarter and up to the Duomo where all four quadrants meet, adjust their gear, bang drums, toot horns play lutes and the like and show off the Goods. There is a royal court, musicians of every type, banner carriers, attendants and just about every type of dignitary and priest you can imagine all dressed in their finest medieval clothing. It’s a beautiful spectacle! I felt like I was dressed all wrong in my mini-skirt, tee-shirt and sandals during this awesome medieval procession. If I had only remembered my blue and gold gown encrusted with sapphires and lined with ermine… So this beautiful Royal procession parades through in one direction and then they come back around and line up on the steps of the Duomo for the Benediction (blessing) of the knights and the games. I get goosey all over just thinking about how beautiful the colors were and how impressive and calm the horses stayed. I can still hear how loud the drums were!
After the benediction there is another parade through the town to the Piazza Grande. This is the same piazza where “La Vita e Bella” was filmed. It was completely transformed into a jousting arena. Unfortunately we didn’t realize that once again we were in the wrong area and ended up in the Culcitrone and San’Andrea side of the joust. These two quarters are extremely competitive and not super friendly so we just hung back and let them have a go at each other. As the games started, the flag carriers came in and did their beautiful dance and show of how one spins around, jumps and flips over each other all while waving huge flags, tossing them in the air and then catching the damn projectiles! It’s pretty amazing. Then, in came all the banner carriers, musicians, more Royalty and finally those BEAUTIFUL Knights. I have no idea how long these guys have to practice before they are even allowed to compete for the position of Knight, but consider this… There are only two of them. They have to hit a little tiny target with a long lance while their horse is barreling up a steep unstable hill wearing entirely too much clothing and then make an immediate stop before they run into a wall. Not an easy job. So I can make my long story a bit shorter, you can check out the website at:www.giostradelsaracino.arezzo.it/
After the Giostra we all headed down to Miva, mine and Barbara’s favorite little restaurant owned by Napolitan’s. We ate too much, drank too much and basically had a good time. My friend Stefano said it would be fun to go to the after party, so he and I headed there with Vittorio to check out the festivities. Somehow, I always get lucky with these things and we ended up going into the Santo Spirito Museum where the previously won lances are kept along with the newest Golden Lance. We also went into the little pub below and guess who walks in to be congratulated by their many admirer’s… but the two KNIGHTS!!! I thought of throwing myself at one of them and claiming distress, but I didn’t want to cause an international scandal…
If you happen to find yourself in the Tuscan region in September or June I recommend trying to see this event… The Giostra del Sarcino is an event you don’t want to miss! I’m still trying to figure out why this didn’t make the Olympics!?!