If your plans for the weekend don’t include a jousting tournament, it probably means…you aren’t in Ascoli Piceno, Italy! The first Sunday of every August is celebrated with a medieval jousting tournament that brings tens of thousands of people to the small town on Italy’s eastern coast. The day is to honor Saint Emidio, the protector of Ascoli Piceno.
The day’s festivities begin with a procession through the town’s streets. Nearly 2,000 people dress themselves in medieval costumes, which, we imagine, must be quite hot in August, and parade through the streets to the steady beat of a drum. Next come a reading of medieval documents, a feast, flag throwing, and special offerings for the Catholic Church.
The day’s pinnacle is the jousting tournament, the Quintana. Over 60,000 people gather to watch and cheer as the six knights (who represent the six neighborhoods of the city), compete in a course designed to test his agility and horsemanship. The riders hold heavy lances as they thunder down the jousting track and try to pierce cardboard figures. Elaborate scoring takes place, and one knight is crowned as the year’s winner.
As with most Italian festivals, the celebration concludes with hours of revelry in the streets. Restaurants, shops, and churches stay open until the wee hours, and people of all ages enjoy one another’s company in the summer air.
Sounds like a pretty cool start to August, doesn’t it?