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Fire starter: the Crusaders inspired this curious tradition of blowing up a cart
Events & Festivals

Return to medieval times at these three fun festivals

By Sean Caulfield

Scoppio Del Carro

When the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099, a member of the Florentine Pazzi family was the first to raise a Christian banner above the city. As a reward, he was given three previous pieces of stone from the Holy Sepulchre. Each Easter, these stones were used to light a fire to symbolise new life and city dwellers would catch a light from the fire to take home and ignite their own hearths. Today, Scoppio Del Carro, or the Explosion of the Cart, is a rather unusual take on the tradition. On Easter Sunday, a large decorative cart is pulled by white oxen through Florence to the cathedral square. Here a dove-shaped rocket is lit, which speeds down a wire from the cathedral and blows up the cart.

Giostra dell’Archidado

Cortona’s residents turn out on the second Sunday in June for Giostra dell’Archidado, a crossbow competition that commemorates the wedding in 1397 of the lord of Cortona, Francesco Casali, and his bride, the Sienese noblewoman Antonia Salimbeni. As well as the quest to win the golden arrow, there’s a big parade of medieval characters in period dress through the city’s streets, a re-enactment of the wedding, and a jousting tournament.

Volterra AD 1398
One of the biggest and best medieval festivals in Italy takes place in Volterra in the last week of August, when the town steps back in time to the year 1398. The city centre and grounds of the castle host parades and battles, feasts and entertainment, with knights and damsels, jesters and minstrels strolling the streets, and blacksmiths and carpenters setting up shop along Volterra’s alleyways. Even medieval money becomes the common currency.

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