The Wedding and Crossbow Competition: Cortona Giostra

11 Jun

The Wedding

On the last Saturday night of the Giostra, the Cortonese recreate the 1397 wedding of Francesco Casali of Cortona and Antonia Salimbeni of Siena. For 10euro/person, you can buy a seat in the stands, which we thankfully did as the event lasted for several hours. The costumes of the different regions were beautifully displayed as the royalty from each area was presented.

Bride and groom

The ceremony

Some of the entertainment


The Crossbow Competition

On Sunday, the final day of Giostra, the festival celebrates the previous night’s marriage with a crossbow competition. Practice begins at 11 AM, but the actual competition, in full costume, begins at 4PM. Once again, the pageantry is extensive, with a parade of important people from each area of Cortona, as well as the drummers, buglers, flag throwers, etc.


There are five quintiere, or areas of Cortona, and each is represented by specific symbols and colors in the competition. Our house is in the S. Andrea quintiere, so our colors are green and yellow. Each team consists of a Maestro di Campo, or Field Master, and two Balestrieri, or dart shooters. The competition lasts four rounds. Amazingly, the Maestro from our area was none other than our neighbor, Vincenzo, the one who skillfully parks the too big car in the too small garage. He chooses an arrow from a trunk, and he and the shooter ascend the platform. After the Balestrieri carefully sets the crossbow, the arrow is put in place by the Maestro, and amid a hushed crowd, the arrow is shot at a target about 20 meters, or almost 66 feet  away.

Our Neighbor Maestro Vincenzo and the Balestrieri

Judges and other officials after each round

After each round, the judges move in to calculate the results. Points are awarded for each round, and with significant drum roll, they are announced and posted.

This year, two teams tied, so they alone competed in a fifth round. And guess what? S. Andrea won! Must be all that close call parking that makes Vincenzo such a great Maestro! The winner receives a golden arrow, or verretta, then all involved parade through the city.

Golden Arrow

The Winning Quintiere

The Giostra dell’Archidado…and experience we will long remember. Thanks, Cortona!



7 Responses to “The Wedding and Crossbow Competition: Cortona Giostra”

  1. florence connelly June 11, 2012 at 12:11 PM #

    Wow – how intersting !! Really wonderful – thanks for sharing so beautifully !
    Love and Miss you – hugs to Benita xoxox


    • blogginginitaly June 11, 2012 at 12:18 PM #

      It truly was interesting and so wonderful to learn about the culture of this area we love so much! You need to visit us!!
      Miss you all too! xo


  2. vince June 11, 2012 at 12:17 PM #

    Hey, how come Len wasn’t allowed into the crossbow competition? From his photo on the single bow, it looked like he had the required athletic skill. Does anyone else think it a little odd in juxtaposing a wedding and a crossbow competition?


    • blogginginitaly June 11, 2012 at 12:21 PM #

      First, I think he needs to be a native and we don’t qualify yet!
      Second, only you would ask!


  3. Filocia (Phyllis) Poma June 12, 2012 at 8:07 PM #

    What a great time to be in Cortona, the festivities look like fun.


  4. Paulette November 25, 2012 at 6:38 PM #

    Your post, The Wedding and Crossbow Competition: Cortona Giostra Blogging In Italy, is really well written and insightful. Glad I found your website, warm regards from Paulette!


    • blogginginitaly November 27, 2012 at 11:14 PM #

      It was such a great time to be in Cortona…glad you enjoyed the post.


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