We talked about food, music, and comics but if you arrive in Italy at the right moment you might find something even more interesting than typical dishes. In this article, you will find out more about traditional events that occur every year in Italy in our: top 3 weirdest Italian traditions.
Palio di Siena (2nd of July & 16th August - Siena)
Our trip starts in Tuscany, in a city declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO, called Siena. This medieval city hosts twice a year an event called 'il Palio'. Siena has historically been divided into 17 wards, called contrade. This unique event sets the scene for a horse race, and brings the city back in time transforming the city centre in a racecourse. The riders, dressed in typical medieval outfits, ride bareback the horses for three laps around 'piazza del Campo'. This fast-paced race generates an intense rivalry between the city wards even within the same family, if the relatives live in an antagonist contrada. This tradition, is often criticised by animal activist groups but also strenuously defended by the city.
Calcio storico fiorentino
(3rd week of June) For our second event, we stay in Tuscany and we move to Firenze, in Piazza Santa Croce. This beautiful square, every year in the 3rd week of June turns into a huge stadium covered in sand (approximately 100 m × 50 m or 109 by 55 yards) to host 3 matches of this 16th Century sport.
The matches are 50 minutes long and involve two teams of 27 players each for a total of 54 players. Even though the game is called 'calcio', the rules are very different from modern Italian football. The main goal is to score points by throwing a ball into the rivals' net but the players are allowed to use tactics such as head-butting, punching, elbowing, and choking, and there are no substitutions allowed for injured or expelled players. It could be described as a tough, violent, last-player-standing version of modern football.
Battaglia delle arance
Third stop, and here we are Piemonte! In the city of Ivrea every year during the Carnival a juicy event takes place: La battaglia delle arance (orange battle). To commemorate a medieval incident that started a rebellion back in the 1200 A.D. the event takes place every year in the city to celebrate freedom.
The battle is spectacular and follows an unwritten gentleman’s code, followed by all the participants, that guarantees their overall safety (apart from a few inevitable black eyes). The competition sees hundreds of people involved, and constitutes an incredible cultural patrimony for the city.
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