05 Jun 2009

June is a month rich in festivals celebrating Tuscany glorious past. Many of the popular events, such as Calcio in Costume in FLorence, and the Historical Regatta in Pisa take place in this period.

June festivals in Tuscany

June is a month rich in festivals celebrating Tuscany’s glorious past. Many of the popular events, such as Calcio in Costume in Florence, and the Historical Regatta in Pisa take place during this period.

If you happen to be in Tuscany in June, this is what you might not want to miss:

  • Torneo di San Giovanni, Florence, June 13, 14 and 24. This is the official name of the famous “calcio fiorentino” (Florentine football) or “calcio in livrea”. The origins of this sport can be traced back to the ancient Roman game called arpasto, and in the middle ages it became the most practiced sport in Florence. Over the centuries, it grew in importance thanks to the interest it raised among the noblemen of the city, who started organizing tournaments in the main squares. A curiosity: some men who were to become Pope are remembered among the most famous players of the game, such as Clement VII, Leo XI and Urban VIII. After 200 years of neglect, the tradition of this sport was revived in 1930. Since then, every year, the 4 historical quarters of Florence (Bianchi di Santo Spirito in white, Azzurri di Santa Croce in blue, Rossi di Santa Maria Novella in red, and Verdi di San Giovanni in green) play a tournament in the beautiful setting of Piazza Santa Croce. The matches are preceded by a parade in period costumes (Corteo Storico della Repubblica Fiorentina) which crosses the center from Piazza Santa Maria Novella to the very special “football field”.
  • Giostra del Saracino, Arezzo, June 20. This is the most representative celebration of the old medieval times. The Giostra is a horseback tournament, during which two knights, one from each of the “rioni” or neighbourhoods of the city, fight a “manikin” on a pole that resembles an Arab, a  “Saracino“, the term used by Catholics in the Middle Ages to refer to Muslims.
  • Il Gioco del Ponte or the battle of the bridge, Pisa, June 27. More on this on our page on Giugno Pisano.
  • Luminara and Regatta of San Ranieri, Pisa, June 16 and 17. More on this on our page on Giugno Pisano.
  • Ferie delle Messi (the harvest festival) and Giostra dei Bastoni (the tournament of “sticks”), San Gimignano (Siena), June 19-21. The Association of the Knights of Santa Fina re-enact some famous events in the medieval history of the town. The event celebrates the “ferie messium”, the propitiatory rites which the population used to perform in the hope for a good harvest. The Ferie Messium were also the occasion for some fun, and the Giostra dei Bastoni was one of the many events which entertained the population of San Gimignano during the days of the harvest festival. The Giostra is on Sunday 21, at 6pm.
  • Torneo di Palazzo Pitti, Florence, June 20. Tournament featuring a series of medieval games (with knife throwers, crossbowmen, bowmen, etc.) celebrating the Patron Saint of the city, Saint John the Baptist. The tournament is opened by a flag waving show at 6 in Piazza Pitti. There will also be a re-enactment of an old Florentine market with craftsmen and jugglers.
  • Palio della Vittoria, Anghiari (Arezzo), June 29. Every year, on this day, the town commemorates the historical battle of Anghiari (June 29, 1440) which decided the borders of the Granducato di Toscana thanks to the victory of the Florentine and Vatican armies over the Venetian and Milanese armies. The parades starts at 8:15 pm and after the Palio, the celebrations continue with a banquet at Castello dei Sorci.
  • Torneo Cavalleresco della Massa Trabaria, Sestino (Arezzo), June 28. Massa Trabaria was the name given to a province of the Vatican State at a crossroads between Tuscany, Umbria, Emilia Romagna and Le Marche. Nice village and nice period costume parade.
  • Volo del Ciuco (the Flight of the Donkey), Empoli, June 13. This bizarre festival dates back to the 14th century when it was decided that every year, after the religious festivity of Corpus Domini, a donkey should be brought to the top of the bell-tower of the Collegiata of Empoli, tied to a pulley and slid along a rope down to the Ghibellino Palace. Obviously, nowadays, the donkey is not a real one but a puppet.
  • Giostra cavalleresca (Knights tournament) and Festival del Folklore (Folklore Festival), Figline Valdarno (Florence), June 13-14. Two days of celebrations in Piazza Ficino with the Osterie of the town quarters. On the 13th there will be a market called Il Triocco and a flag waving show.
  • Il Bianco e L’Azzurro (the White and the Blue), San Quirico d’Orcia (Siena), June 13-14. A medieval festival with flag waving shows, bowmen and a medieval dinner (reservation necessary).
  • A cena da Messer Giovanni (Dinner at Messer Giovanni’s), Certaldo (Florence), June 13. Medievl dinner for 150 people. Reservation necessary.
  • Palio dei Rioni, Castiglion Fiorentino (Arezzo), June 21. A horseback race in honour of the Madonna delle Grazie del Rivaio.
  • Palio dei Ciuchi, Cerbaia (Florence), June 21. A donkey race following a parade with people in medieval costumes, flag wavers and musicians.
  • Palio della Rivalsa, Bettolle di Sinalunga (Siena), June 21. The celebrations start at 5:30 with a parade. At 6:45 the palio begins: the “barellieri” carry a wooden amphora while the “scalatori” (climbers) must put off a fire placed at the top of a 5 meter-high pole.
  • Menar mascelle all’or di cena (literally “moving jaws at dinner time”), Vinci (Florence), June 26. Amazing candlelight dinner with waiters in medieval costume, flag wavers and musicians in the beautiful Italian garden of the Villa del Ferrale overlooking the countryside. Reservation required.
  • Oste in Festa, Oste di Montemurlo (Prato), June 25-28. Medieval dinner on Jun e 25, Palio della Ruzzola dei Cerchi e delle Botti on June 27, antique market on June 28.
  • Festa del Barbarossa, San Quirico d’Orcia (Siena), June 27-28. Two days of re-enactment of the Middle Ages in this town on the Via Francigena to commemorate the meeting of Frederick I of Hohenstaufen duke of Swabia (called Il Barbarossa – the red-bearded man) and Pope Adrian VI.


  1. Melonie carideo

    Are the above dates for festivals for 2010?

  2. Hi Melonie,

    no, these dates were those for 2009. Most festivals will be around the same time. Generally festivals are on the same weekend every year. So, for example, the my village festival is always on the last weekend of August.

    Some events are always on the same day, no matter what day of the week it is. So for instance, La Luminara in Pisa is always on June 16, and Palio della Vittoria in Arezzo is always on the 29th.

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