Tuscany is home to some of the most famous tourist destinations in Italy, a place where extensive culture and indulgent relaxation go hand in hand. The cities of Florence, Pisa and Siena are well-trodden by tourists keen to see sights such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Uffizi museum and Michelangelo’s ‘David’. Also popular with holidaymakers are the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside that slope down to the coast, dotted with vineyards and villas, perfect for tasting the region’s many fine wines, cheeses and olive oils.
What Tuscany is less famous for though is the abundance of superb festivals which it hosts throughout the year. Tuscany Now has created a guide to some of the best festivals taking place in Tuscany this year which you’ll want to see if you’re planning a holiday to the region.
The Bravio Delle Botti
The Bravio delle Botti takes place on the last Sunday of August offering a truly unique and exhilarating spectacle. Located south of Siena in the charming city of Montepulciano this amazing exhibition pits the eight ‘contrade’ (districts) against each other in a race as they seek to win the ‘Bravio’, a painted cloth banner depicting the city’s patron saint. The contestants each have to push heavy wooden wine barrels for up to a kilometre uphill along the narrow streets of Montepulciano’s historical centre. The origin of the competition dates back to the 14thcentury and offers an opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful art cities of Tuscany and enjoy the superb wine and traditional local dishes that make this such a special event.
The Palio in Siena
Every year on both the 2nd July and 16th August ten ‘contrade’ challenge each other to a passionate and daring horse race in the heart of the city. Horse races have been taking place in Siena since the 6th century so the event forms a large part of the lives of the locals all desperate to win for their district and become a local hero. On the day of the race the ring around the Piazza del Campo is covered with tuff clay and the Bishop performs a mass for the race jockeys. The horses must then run three laps around the Campo with the first to cross the finish line (even if the horse arrives without a jockey!) declared the victor. The victorious team then head to the church for the ‘Te Deum’ or prayer of thanks before all taking to the streets of their district for a wild night of street parties in celebration. If you’re in and around Siena in either July or August then you won’t want to miss this unique opportunity to live the warmth and passion of the people of Siena!
Cacio al fuso
Pienza is famed for its superb ewes’ milk cheese or ‘pecorino’ which is produced in vast quantities here. Interestingly the word pecorino is a relatively new invention as until the end of World War Two, Tuscans used the term ‘cacio’ instead. This is where the ‘cacio al fuso’ cheese rolling competition held in Pienza on the first Sunday of September got its name. Cacio al fuso literally means, the cheese to the spindle and this is the aim of the participants in this delightfully quaint Tuscan festival. Contestants take turns to see who can roll the ball of cheese so that it stops closest to the spindle. If you’re feeling brave enough and have a steady hand then you might like to try the game for yourself!
Italians are passionate about their football, cheering on the national football team, the Azzurri (the blues) with great gusto whenever they take to the field. It’s no surprise then that the ‘Calcio Storico’ is celebrated and competed in so fanatically. This festival is steeped in almost 500 years of tradition and can be loosely described as a mix between football and rugby, not for the faint-hearted! Two teams of 27 combatants, all dressed in authentic period costume compete in the historic centre of Florence. The playing field, located in one of the most beautiful squares in the city, Piazza Santa Croce, is a giant sand pit with a goal running the width of each end and each game is played out for 50 minutes with the winner being the team that has amassed the most points. The prize for the winner? A huge pile of steaks to recoup the strength lost in battle. Not to be missed.
If this introduction to some of Tuscany’s magical festivals has whetted your appetite for a visit to one of Italy’s most loved regions then you’ll want to look for villas in Tuscany to make your stay as relaxing and luxurious as possible. For more than 20 years Tuscany Now has specialised in offering hand-picked luxury villa rentals to its clients worldwide. All of their luxury villas enjoy a private swimming pool and they are able to offer a full concierge service arranging cooks, chauffeurs, weddings and a spa service.