Luminara, Regatta and Battle of the Bridge
On the night of June 16, the Luminara begins the festivities to honor Saint Ranieri, the patron saint of Pisa, the following day. Over 70,000 candles light up the palaces along the Arno river, with a fireworks display afterwards.
To celebrate the patron saint of Pisa, four boats representing the most ancient districts of the city compete in the Regatta of Saint Ranieri along the Arno river, heritage of the past glory of Pisa as an ancient maritime republic.
Generally a week later, Pisa reenacts the Battle of the Bridge, a medieval "push of war" contest which takes place on the central bridge in Pisa. The contest is preceded by a huge procession in costume through the city.
Calcio Storico Fiorentino
Fabulous fireworks along the Arno conclude Florence's celebrations to St. John the Baptist, the city's patron saint, on June 24. First, there is a parade in historical costume that starts at the Church of Santa Maria Novella and ends at the Church of Santa Croce, where the Calcio Storico is then played in the dirt-covered square in front of the church. The game is a combination of soccer, rugby, and big time wrestling, all played while wearing 16th century costumes. The four teams represent the four traditional neighborhoods of the city: Santa Croce (blue), Santo Spirito (white), Santa Maria Novella (red), and San Giovanni (green). The prize is a whole Chianina calf.
Giostra del Saracino
Arezzo's Piazza Grande is the setting of the Giostra del Saracino, or Saracen Tournament. Held twice a year, a night version on the third Saturday in June and the second on the first Sunday in September, this tournament has its origins in the early 16th century and in its present form, commemorates Christian efforts to hold back the tide of Islam in the 14th century. There is a lively and colorful procession preceding the event in which eight costumed knights charge towards a wooden representation of the Saracen, aiming to hit the Saracen's shield with lances. The target is mounted as to swivel around and can actually hit back! Each pair of knights represents one of Arezzo's four rival districts and their supporters each occupy a side of the piazza. The winner receives a golden lance.
Palio di Siena
The Palio horse race is a colorful, bareback horse race round the dirt-packed Piazza del Campo, Siena's main square, that takes place every July 2 and August 16. The contrade (traditional neighborhoods) compete for the palio, or banner, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The square is filled with costumed pageantry before the race, and massive feasts are set up on long outdoor tables that can stretch for blocks on the medieval side streets.
Pistoia Blues Festival, Giostra dell'Orso
Two important events take place in Pistoia every July: the Pistoia Blues Festival and the Giostra dell'Orso. Taking place in the first half of July, the Pistoa Blues draws international blues artists who perform in the city's main square.
After a magnificent procession held on the 25th of July to honor St. James, the patron saint of the city, twelve knights take part in the Giostra dell'Orso, a medieval jousting tournament. The knights' goal is to hit two stylized bears with their lances to the sound of drum rolls and fanfares. The bear (orso) is the heraldic animal of Pistoia and the Giostra is the highlight of the towns's "Luglio Pistoiese" festival.
Bravio delle Botti
The Bravio delle Botti, which takes place on the last Sunday in August, is a barrel rolling race between the eight Contradas (divisions) of Montepulciano competing for a Palio, a painted cloth banner. The barrels (which weigh 80 kilos) have to be rolled up about 1800 meters along the main street of the town of Montepulciano to end in the Piazza Grande. Costume processions precede the competition and a street banquet follows.