Stopped during the War, the city began in the late 1940's to recreate this fabulous event with so old origins, in the Middle Ages. The Giosta dell'Orso happens every year, on July 25 to celebrate St. James, Pistoia's patron saint.
During the staged event, three knights from each section of the city (there are 4 Quarters) fight a "bear" (actually a target shaped like a bear that they strike, on horseback). The winner is the knight who struck the bear's left foot - or as close as possible.
This particular event is a re-creation of two different events in Pistoia's history: one was a horse race in honor of Sant’Jacopo, used to be called Palio (because the prize for the winner is the PALIO, a piece of cloth richly decorated and painted) and the other was a mention in the 1660's of a jousting match with a bear. Bears are not known in this area ...now, however it seems that they were abundant in the time period when they have held the event in the late medieval times.
The manifestation starts at 9 a.m. when each RIONE (each one of the city sections, which are: Cervo Bianco, Drago, Leon D'Oro and Grifone) leave from their headquarter (one of the four doors of the city: Porta al Borgo, Porta Carratica, Porta Lucchese e Porta San Marco) and march directly to the Cathedral, where all of them join the Citizens representatives and start a Parade around the whole city, following the trail of the old walls.
After that, at 7:30 p.m., all four Rioni lead direction to the seat of the last year's winner to honor the Rione who got the last Palio. From there starts the "Corteo" (Parade) direction to the Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) where the joust will happen.
Around 9 p.m. there is a demonstration of all kights who will fight the joust, with the respective horses and the blessing given from Pistoia's bishop. At 9.30 p.m. the joust starts and the winner will receive the Palio. It is just like the Siena Palio, a cloth painted and decorated by a local artist with a high artistic value. For the winner, there is more than the artistic or intrinsic value, but the taste of victory that lasts forever.
Please check out the official website for more information about the GIOSTRA DELL'ORSO and to watch the movies of last editions:
Adriana Lucchesi for Tuscany - villas.com
>> "Sbandieratori" - the Flag Flyers show, at the end of the Historic Parade
Find here a selection of villas close to PISTOIA: