The Giostra del Saracino (Saracino Joust)
BY Liliana Macias
June 30, 2021
The Giostra del Saracino (Saracino Joust) occurs twice a year in Piazza Grande in Arezzo and reinforces a strong sense of identity within its citizens through historical reenactment. Despite having to cancel the Giostra di San Donato, which is the Joust that falls on the second to last Saturday of June due to COVID-19 restrictions, there are plans underway to hopefully see the Giostra della Madonna Del Conforto, which occurs on the first Sunday in September! So as Arezzo and its citizens prepare for the return of the historic Giostra del Saracino, let's talk a little more about where it first began.
The Giostra del Saracino has a strong beginning in the Medieval period (15th century) and would only occur as prominent figures came to visit Arezzo. As the city grew over time, those within the Joust shifted to accommodate the differences. Although the Joust began with one neighborhood, Porta Crucifera, the city and its population expanded and eventually led to five districts that wished to showcase their strong sense of identity. Over the years, the Joust lost its importance until it finally disappeared in the 17th century. It was officially brought back in 1904 in honor of Francesco Petrarca, a scholar and poet born in Arezzo in 1304. Today there are four neighborhoods - Porta Crucifera, Porta Santo Spirito, Porta del Foro, and Porta Sant'Andrea. Each neighborhood sends two knights to battle a puppet called "Buratto" and attempt to hit the center of his shield in order to score the highest number of points. At the end of the Joust, the neighborhood with the most points wins a golden lance handcrafted by a local artisan every year.
The Giostra del Saracino reinforces the historical significance of Arezzo and provides its citizens with opportunities to gather in social interactions, build a sense of community, and ignite an understanding of belonging in Arezzo. This emphasis on community does not only begin and end with the Joust. The week before, several events occur to spur excitement for the Joust ranging from dinners, concerts, exhibitions, parades, and music! These interactions also transpire through volunteer work and the understanding that the members of each neighborhood must work together to bring about the best events and wish good luck to their knights. The strong identity found within each neighborhood also emerges through their museums which hold gear, images, and the golden lances won over the years.
Those who visit Arezzo must try to witness the Giostra del Saracino at least once! It is truly a historical event that reinvigorates the city and highlights just how incredible Arezzo is.