Ascoli Piceno, a beautiful town in Le Marche region, holds a colorful medieval jousting festival twice a year in summer. Called la Quintana, the main event of this historic festival is the joust on horseback, an important competition among the 6 neighborhoods of Ascoli Piceno. My colleague, Teresa Plowright, attended the festival a few years ago and shares her experience here.
Ascoli Piceno Medieval Parade
My family was driving from Venice south to Bari, and I asked Martha about an interesting place to stop en route. She mentioned a festival with jousting in Ascoli Piceno – and the gods of timing smiled: the first Sunday in August was exactly when we would be passing through.
We arrived just in time to view a stately procession down Ascoli Piceno’s photogenic main street. Talk about community spirit: some 1500 citizens, outfitted in impressive 15th century costumes, filed past to the sound of a steady drum-beat. Several were on horseback, but most marched on foot on a warm day in August (one or two grew faint.)
Ascoli Piceno Medieval Joust, the Quintana
The Quintana procession and joust is a revived tradition, based on medieval documents and artwork.
After the parade, the spectators crowded into grandstands around the jousting field (paid admission, 15 euro at time of writing.) Few if any other tourists were in evidence. The stands were packed with enthusiastic residents cheering for one of six champions, each representing a specific sestiere, or neighborhood, in the town. Out on the field, elite seating areas were filled with spectators wearing the colors of their team.
After opening ceremonies with parading and fanfare, the first of several rounds of jousting began on a course shaped like a racetrack cut through with diagonal lines. Riders— with heavy lance— and steed gathered momentum as they thundered around the track and then lunged through the middle, lance forward, to pummel a cardboard figure of a Saracen, or Moor. The system of scoring was mysterious to us, but within moments a score was posted and loud cheers erupted from fans for that sestiere.
If you go: be prepared for a hot and lengthy afternoon! The crowd was intensely involved in the scores of the jousts, cheering for their sestiere. For a visitor however, an hour of two of parade and jousting might suffice, especially with kids. It might then be time to repair to an air-conditioned room, or a gelato bar, to await the the cool of evening and more events.
- The Quintana is usually held in mid-July and again the first Sunday of August. Check the Quintana di Ascoli Piceno web site for dates, program information, and more photos.
Evening and Night-time Revelries for the Whole Family
Dusk on this festival day in Ascoli Piceno brought another procession – the proud winner of the joust, just one of many in medieval garb as the parade passed through the wonderful and huge Piazza Arringo and moved deeper into the town’s magnificent old quarter. All this, and hardly a tourist to be seen. The sight of the costumed procession moving by as darkness fell was wonderful.
Then the town celebrated: all ages, gatherings of family and friends, eating outdoors in the giant Piazza Arringo, babies in strollers, kids dashing around, shops open late (and I don’t mean tourist shops). We wandered through the extensive old quarter, which is wondrously preserved, with the light-colored travertine stone that glowed at night.
The church at one end of Piazza Arringo was still open at midnight, with classical music playing within, and a sign outside advising that dogs shouldn’t be brought inside: somehow I love a church that feels a need to make this statement. Families were still having a fine time eating al fresco when we called it a night and went to our room nearby. Later we heard and glimpsed fireworks (pirotecnici).
Ascoli Piceno Background
Ascoli Piceno, in Le Marche region of central Italy, was founded over 2,000 years ago, centuries before Rome got its start. Like many cities in Italy, it had a heyday during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Fortunately for us in the 21st century, (a) the historical parts of the city were built in a beautiful long-lasting marble called travertino, and (b) as Ascoli Piceno did not grow up to be a major urban center, a huge medieval district remains intact. In town there’s a nice museum (free admission) with costumes used in the parade, and medieval artifacts.
- Where to Stay: Martha’s Italy recommends Antico Borgo Piceno, a nice bed and breakfast in a restored convent with both vacation apartments and rooms, a short walk across the river from the historic center. It has a large terrace for guest use with tables, lounge chairs, and great views.
Top Reasons to Go to La Quintana:
You don’t get much more local color than this: costumed processions, medieval-style joust. You don’t get more local fun than this: a festive occasion with late-night party for all age. And how often do you get to see a medieval-style joust, anyway? Setting is amazing: the old quarters of Ascoli Piceno are as good as many of Italy’s much more touristed towns.
This post may contain affiliate links to sites I believe are of benefit to travelers. There is no cost to you but the small amount of revenue helps defer the cost of bringing you this free information.