(Special thanks to Andrea Righi for letting me use this great photo of the Luminara).
June is a very special month in Pisa. It’s certainly the best time of the year to be in the city, because all the major events are concentrated in this month.
Il Giugno Pisano, literally the Pisan June, is the name given to the program of the events organized in the city.
The most important dates
- June 2nd, 2009: Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics
In the Middle Ages, Pisa was one of the 4 powerful Maritime Republics together with Amalfi, Genoa and Venice. They essentially controlled trade in the Mediterranean and were rich cities. The Regatta commemorated those prosperous times. Pisa hosts the regatta every four years. This year it’s on June 2nd. The Pisan boat is now exhibited outside the Town Hall by the Ponte di Mezzo bridge, and it’s red with an eagle on the front. Amalfi’s boat is blue with a winged horse, the Venetian boat is green with a lion and Genoa’s boat is white with a winged dragon. The Regatta is preceded by a parade in period costumes with 320 actors, 80 for each city, who reenact the major characters and events of the past of the Maritime Republic. The main character for the city of Pisa is Kinzica de’ Sismondi, a girl who’s believed to have saved the city from the Saracen invasion.
- June 16th: La Luminara di San Ranieri
This is the most spectacular festival in Pisa. The night before the Patron Saint’s Day, the buildings of the Lungarni, the streets that run along the river Arno, are decorated with thousands of candles placed in the so-called “biancheria” (literally “linen”), wooden candle holders painted white and shaped like the windows and doors of the buildings onto which they are hung. More candles float on the river. All street lights are turned off. At 11 pm there are fireworks, and after that the crowds spread out to join in the street parties scattered throughout the center. The center late at night, when the Lungarni are finally empty, is really magic and romantic. Don’t forget to pick a card to vote the most beautiful building on the Lungarno. They are distributed at the Logge de’ Banchi
- June 17th: San Ranieri
Saint Ranieri is the Patron Saint of the city. To honour the saint the 4 historical quarters of Pisa compete in the Historical Regatta of Saint Ranieri. Each quarter has a special colour: San Martino is red, Sant’Antonio is green, Santa Maria is blue and San Francesco is yellow. The four boats cover 1500m from the railway bridge to the Palazzo Medici. When they get there, a chosen member of the crew has to climb a 10 m high mast and grab the victory banner. The crew that gets the banner first wins. This is meant to commemorate the battle of Lepanto when the crew of the Knights of Santo Stefano managed to board a Turkish ship and take the flag waving on its mast, which is still on display in the Church of Santo Stefano in Piazza dei Cavalieri and has been recently restored. At 9:30 pm there is a concert in Piazza degli Ospedalinghi at the Santa Chiara hospital.
- Last Sunday in June, (June 27th, 2009): Gioco del Ponte.
Literally “the game of the bridge”, il Gioco del Ponte is a real “battle” on the bridge which divides the center in two halves: Ponte di Mezzo. First an “army” of over 700 people in historical costumes parades through the center. 12 teams joined in two larger teams corresponding to the two halves of the cities are opposed in the “battle”: the quarters of the northern side of the city, Tramontana (Santa Maria, San Francesco, San Michele, Mattaccini, Claci and Satiri) and the southern side of the city, Mezzogiorno (Sant’Antonio, San Martino, San Marco, Leoni, Dragoni, Delfini). Before the actual “battle”, the different teams parade on their own side of the river. A third parade is that of the 81 judges. After this show, the “battle” begins and the teams made up of really large men challenge each other by trying to push a very heavy cart into each other’s side of the bridge using only the backs of their necks. In the morning at 10 am, Piazza San Paolo a Ripa d’Arno, boat tour along the river Arno with a guide presenting the various historical buildings of the Lungarni. At 9:30 pm, Jazz Concert in Piazza Donati.
Some other events of the Giugno Pisano
- June 1st, 2009 – Vintage car parade on the Lungarni (5 pm) followed by a concert and the presentation of the Pisan Crew (Scalo dei Renaioli, 6 pm). At 10 pm, “La Notte Nera” (the dark night), astronomical observations on Ponte di Mezzo.
- June 5th to the 7th, Antique market at the Abbey of San Zeno.
- June 6th, 2009 – Football match: Italy vs. Northern Ireland.
- June 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th, “Giardini sogni e magie“, the gardens of the center of Pisa. Itineraries (5:30 – 8 pm).
- June 7th, Concert Pages of Sacred and Contemporary Polyphony, Chiesa di S. Torpè (Largo del Parlascio, 20, 9 pm)
- June 12th – 14th, Festa del Gioco Intelligente (Festival of Intelligent Games, Palazzo Gambacorti)
- June 12th, Concert featuring Bach’s and Handel’s Arias (Church of San Nicola, 9:15 pm).
- June 13th, 2009 – World Wide Knitting in Public Day. From 5 pm to 8:30 pm, Piazza Donati 7 organized by Knittable. Check their website for the other appointments in June. Jazz Concert in Piazza Donati at 9:30 pm.
- June 19th, Bazeel Summer Salsa Night, Piazza Garibaldi, 8 pm – 12 am.
- June 20th, Lirica sotto le stelle, Giacomo Puccini’s “Boheme”, Giardino Scotto, 9 pm. Jazz Concert at 9:30 pm in Piazza Donati.
- June 25th, inauguration of the exhibit “Vele e Barche, Volti e Storie di Mare, Pisa: Città di mare, del sapere e del saper fare”, dedicated to the seamanship tradition of the city, Via Darsena 3, 6 pm.
Some useful sites on Pisa and the Giugno Pisano
- Behind the Tower
- Anno Galileiano
- Giugno Pisano
- Pisa Informa
- Pisa Visitor Information Center
Pisa won! Amalfi came in 2nd, Genoa was 3rd and Venice was 4th.
Here is a great photo of the parade.
A quick update with a link to the dates of June 2010 events in Pisa: