Much more than a knightly tournament, the Saracino Joust is an essential element of the city’s identity and the chance to live Arezzo in a truly unique setting. The historical parade and the challenge between knights in Piazza Grande are only the most famous moments of the event, but there are many more to discover.
The story of an unmissable re-enactment
The Saracino is held twice a year, the second to last Saturday of June, the night edition of the Joust of Saint Donato and the first Sunday of September, the day edition of the Joust of Our Lady of the Comfort. The knights of the four Districts of Arezzo face each other, rivals among them but all against the Buratto of the King of the Indies.
Although the event has medieval origins, the rotating statue of the Saracen which gives the name to the event returned to Piazza Grande regularly in 1931. Since then, only the Second World War and the Covid-19 pandemic caused skipping the event.
“The colors of the Joust”, The Museum of the Saracino
The museum “The Colors of the Joust” is set on the ground floor of the town hall of Arezzo. It is a permanent exhibition which tells the essence of the Joust. It is a place full of charm where adults and kids can live the spell of the Saracen all year round.
On display are the clothes and objects which characterize the event, and which are worn by about 400 people among musicians, knights and grooms who give life to the historical parade of the Joust. These costumes were restored thanks to a fruitful teamwork which has seen participation by the students of the artistic high school and the Cultural Association “La Staffetta”.
Here you can learn about the most important moments of the two sessions of the Joust and study closely a Seventeenth century head of Buratto. There is also a work of art by the master carver Francesco Conti who, since the 70s, realizes the coveted Lancia d’Oro, a prize for the winning district, and the golden roll hand painted by Claudio Milesi.
The exhibition section is flanked by an interactive one, made of virtual and augmented reality and with exciting projections and video mapping. In the game section of the museum, try your hand at raising the race lance. And after holding it, throw yourself at the Buratto like a real knight (it is possible wearing a special visor). Hard to find something more original to do in the city!
More than a visitor: at the museum “The colors of the Joust” you will become the protagonist of a your own Saracino Joust.
Waiting for the Joust together with your favourite district
Throughout the year, groups of quartieristi and city institutions organize and promote several events related to the Joust. There are some which change from time to time, but others, like propitiatory dinners have a regular schedule.
Attending one of these dinners and sitting at the crowded tables is really a memorable experience. How to do it? It is very easy: just consult the websites or the social pages of the districts; you can decide which propitiatory dinner to participate in. Buy your ticket and present yourself at the set time set in the place of the district for which you chose to cheer. Fixed price menu, from appetizer to dessert, emotions included.
If you want to take on the role of the quartierista, in the old city centre you can buy a memento with any of the four different color combinations. Every district has its own.
Choose the red-green for the District of Porta Crucifera. Its headquarters is located in Palazzo Alberti, in the Northeastern sector of the city also called Colcitrone. Not far, there is Porta Trento Trieste, which leads to the feud of white-greens, the district of Porta Sant’Andrea: headquarters in Palazzo San Giusto and extension on the South-East area of Arezzo.
You have to move in the direction of the railway station to reach the Porta Santo Spirito district, with headquarters in the Bastions. You are in the Southwestern part of the city, in the yellow-blue territory.
If one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit is the dove, the emblem of the Porta del Foro District is none other than the chimera. Yellow and crimson colors and headquarters in Porta San Lorentino, this district is in the Northwest area of the centre of Arezzo.
The “Week of the quartierista”, not only at table
The propitiatory dinners are goliardic and very lively. They are always held the evening before the Joust and they are a fundamental moment of the anxious waiting atmosphere which precedes the Joust. An event suitable for all those who like to socialize and spend a good night in typical Arezzo style.
If you do not fit this scene, do not worry. In the days before the Joust each district organizes a full program of initiatives and DJ-sets. You will still have the chance to have fun to the rhythm of different and nice theme nights. Twice a year, on the occasion of the Saracino Joust,the best entertainment in Arezzo revolves around the districts.
All the tradition of the Saracino: the most important places of the Joust
The Saracino Joust takes place following a ritual which true fans know very well. It is the Joust Year, a calendar which begins in January, when the rectors of the Districts take part in the Offering of candles to Blessed Gregory X in the Cathedral of Arezzo.
There, also takes place the solemn blessing of the historical parade, which gathers in Piazza San Domenico and crosses the city centre. You will be amazed by the beauty of the figures which move on foot and on horseback. They are all dressed in Fourteenth-century costumes and their gait is accompanied by the background of the musicians of the saracino Joust.
In front of the Cathedral, in Piazza della Libertà, a week before the Joust, the extraction of the careers, which establishes the order by which the knights will launch a lance against the King of the Indies, takes place. On that occasion, the captains of each district swear allegiance to the rules of chivalry. Only in the September edition, in the churchyard of the Basilica of San Francesco, the bull of the horses and the investiture of the jousters take place.
You will find a city different from the usual, even more evocative and authentic than ever. During the Saracino, Arezzo is filled with magic which is punctuated by the roll of the drums and by the clattering clearings. The city is colored by the colors of medieval costumes and emblems of the districts.
You can walk along with the heraldic coats of arms carried by the characters or be hypnotized by the amazing mastery of the flag-wavers during the show which opens the tenso in Piazza Grande. Trust those who tell it with dreamy eyes and participate in one of the most exciting experiences which Arezzo can give you.
Just a tip before booking your visit. Make some room in your heart because twice a year with the Saracino Joust in Arezzo you will be filled with wonder.