Welcome to Arezzo’s Famous Joust of the Saracen
The pageantry of the Middle Ages for Modern Times
The Joust of the Saracen is a medieval event known as the Giostra del Saracino. This event takes place every June and September in Arezzo and if traveling in this part of Tuscany – should not be missed!
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Practicing started the beginning of August or shall I say, that is when we arrived in Arezzo and heard them practicing the drums and triumphant music for the Giostra del Saracino. With our windows open and our apartment just behind Piazza Grande, along with being located on the top floor, we could hear everything. Including the amazing church bells! At times when on the phone with family, we had to close the windows so we could hear the conversation!
There was so much activity in Arezzo during August. They had medieval events throughout the historic center, and I don’t think we missed attending many. This was by far the best event we participated in so far during this year-long adventure.
Our apartment was in the Porta Crucifera (red and green) neighborhood. We found a vendor selling scarfs and purchased two to wear all week to show our support. In wearing them, we truly felt part of the festivities and neighborhood wearing them.
Discovering we needed to purchase tickets when dining at one of our favorite restaurants, La Lancia d’Oro located in Piazza Grande, we ran right over to the ticket agency. When we arrived for the tickets…we purchased the last two seats available! Luck was on our side.
The entire Fazzuoli family who owns this restaurant made us feel so welcome. You can find more on this in our restaurant recommendations on the main menu of the blog. Their daughter, Martina, and her boyfriend Nicolo both spoke English and it was great conversing with them. Maurizio, the father, was captain of the Porta Crucifera team back in 2002. He saw us wearing our scarves (his neighborhood team also) and one day shared some of his photos. He won the Giostra in 2002 with a perfect score – 10!
Through brilliant parades of colorful costumes, twirling flags, and triumphant music, Arezzo’s spectacular and historic joust takes place every June and September in the beautiful Piazza Grande.
The event was born in the Middle Ages when knights of the Crusades dashed off to vanquish the “Infidels” or “Saracens.” Now, the modern-day tournament has run regularly since 1931. The neighborhood teams compete for the best score to win the coveted Lancia d’Oro or Lance of Gold.
Teams are aligned with the four main porta’s or entranceways of the old walled city.
Porta Crucifera or Door of the Cross (red and green)
Porta del Foro or Door of the Forum (yellow and crimson) (winner in June 2019)
Porto Sant’ Andrea or Saint Andrew’s Door (white and green)
Porto Santo Spirito or Door of the Holy Spirit (yellow and blue)
Each team has two jousters or knights who take turns riding at full gallop pointing their lane toward the enormous swiveling mannequin of Buratto, King of the Indies who holds a kind of cat-o-nine tails in one hand and the score shield in the other.
It’s a dramatic and dangerous contest of accuracy and dexterity as the knight’s race for the score shield while at the same time taking care to avoid being walloped by Buratto’s menacing weapon.
Scoring System for the Joust
The knight and his horse must present themselves before the Jury after each jousting charge. The Jury has ultimate scoring authority and is comprised of actual Arezzo judges. They are dressed in red robes with white hats.
Day of the Event
The first cannon almost had me jump out of bed. The cannon was set off at the Medici Fortress located at the top of the town. The entire day, as you can see from the schedule (below) was one event after the other. It was truly incredible. Blessings were given at the Cathedral or Duomo, in the individual churches in each neighborhood, and at San Francisco church. Even the horses were blessed and given a rosary around their neck.
The Schedule of Events the Day of the Giostra
|7:00||First cannon salute|
|11:00||Second cannon salute
“The Proclamation of the Joust” announced by the Town Herald
The procession begins with 350 medieval dressed participants and horses
|14:00||Third cannon salute
Each neighborhood goes to their own church for the Blessing of the Knights
|14:30||Parade Assembly in Saint Domenico Square|
|15:00||Fourth cannon salute
The parade begins at Sant Domenico Square to the Cathedral
|15:15||Blessing of the Teams from the Bishop of Arezzo15:30|
Final parade winds through the town’s historic center
|17:00||Fifth cannon salute
Opening ceremony in the Piazza Grande
Reading of the Challenge of Buratto by the Herald
Salute of the Knights
Jury’s Announcement of Authorization to begin the Joust
Videos from the Opening Ceremony
The first run of our knight, Porta Crucifera went fantastic. He scored a “IV” out of a possible “V”. The next team-up, Porta Sant Andrea scored a “IV” also. Then, June’s winner, Porta del Foro scored a perfect “V.” The crowd went crazy, well their neighborhood fans did anyway. Then, Santo Spirito tied with a “V” also.
The second run was horrible when our knight dropped the lance! He “technically” scored a “IV” but was given a zero (loss of all points for the turn) because of it. Gary and I were so disappointed but imagine how he felt! [see the scoring system for the joust in the chart above.]
We thought for a brief moment we were attending an NY Yankees/Boston Red Socks game when all of a sudden things heated up. It started when June’s winner, Porta del Foro scored a “II” after they felt Porta Sant Andrea interfered with the knight and/or horse. It was quite amusing, to say the least!
Porta Crucifera’s First Run
The Winner in September 2019
It was the Porta Santo Spirito (yellow & blue) that won with a total score of 9! The entire event took a little over two hours and every moment was exciting!
We urge you if you happen to be visiting any city in Italy and they have a medieval event, try and attend. Traditions are special, especially medieval ones. We were so blessed to attend this event. A memory neither of us will forget!
We apologize for the length of this post but there was so much we wanted to share. We took hundreds of photos and videos and it was very difficult choosing the ones we have included in this post.
For more information Giostra del Saracino