La Quintana Palio Festival Guide 2022

What is the La Quintana Palio Festival?

This Italian festival involves an enthusiastic horse race competition and a classical plus acrobatic flag throwing ceremony. Similarly you will find hundreds of citizens in colorful traditional costumes at the parade. This is perhaps the highlight of La Quintana. The festivities commence at the beautiful city of Ascoli Piceno. This is located in the valley between the two rivers and below hills or mountainous terrains. The city is at the borders of Marche and Abruzzo and gives visitors the taste of both the mountains and sea. Ascoli Piceno was founded by Romans.

La Quintana

Their original urban planning can be seen in the way the city is covered in exotic travertine. The festival has been held in this ancient city for centuries. It dates back to the Middle Ages and the military exercises that started the competitions here. La Quintana Medieval Joust and Parade festival is held twice a year in summers. The pinnacle of this event is the joust on horseback, an important competition among the 6 neighborhoods of Ascoli Piceno. In the contest, the sestieri (6 districts) stand up against each other in sports like archery and flag-throwing. The main feature is the Joust (la giostra). Knights on horseback on a tight figure-eight shaped track with precision, launch a heavy joust into the target, called The Moor. The winner takes home the Palio, a hand-painted prized banner that will be displayed in the sestiere’s center. 

Corteo Storico:

The Corteo Storico is an extravagant parade of each sestieri’s chosen representatives. They all adorn attires and coloured costumes that are elaborately designed according to the era’s styles. The tailors have the huge responsibility to work hard and intricately study the various medieval paintings around the city. They then replicate these details into the costumes. You will find knights in armor, dames in gowns, and bands of drummers and trumpeters.

They will be leading the amazing procession to the arena for the joust. Although this is a sight worth watching, it is not particularly well-known or popular amongst people worldwide. This may also be seen as an upside since it is less crowded than any other festival in Italy. La Quintana has much historical symbolism tied into it. This includes the offering of the candles to the church or the blessing of the knights and horses. Songs are also played by the trumpets and each sestiere’s tune is distinct. The events for La Quintana take place throughout July and August. 

The Happenings at La Quintana 

This timeless tradition has been held every year since 1955 and was founded by a few notables who wanted to enhance the image of their city nationwide. The Quintana is held on the first Sunday of August. This is on the occasion of the feast of Emidius, patron saint and first bishop of the city of Marche.

On the second Saturday of July you can enjoy another edition of Quintana at nighttime too. Although the event may seem common or insignificant to people abroad, for the people of Ascoli this is a synthesis of their tradition and history. There are several events that take place during the whole week. This is before the final competition of riders occurs.  The whole event of Quintana comprises several events happening during the whole week bef Such as the reading of the announcement, the offering of candles or the giving away of the archers. There is the prize of the flag and then the parade and the carousel in the field. 

The Medieval Parade

The medieval parade at La Quintana is a procession down Ascoli Piceno’s photogenic main street. There is a unanimity in the way the community performs their roles here. Some 1500 citizens, outfitted in impressive 15th century costumes, file past to the sound of a steady drum-beat. Several natives are on horseback, but most march on foot on a warm day in August. One or two who can not bear the heat may even faint. You will get to see many fascinating characters such as The Queen of the Knight who is elaborately dressed. Closing the parade are the flag bearers and musicians. Their first exhibit is in curious choreography with their flags, while the latter give rhythm to the parade with their drums. The parade finally enters and ends in the playground, where the race takes place later. 

The Medieval Joust, the Quintana

After the parade is over, the spectators remain crowded in grandstands around the jousting field. The watchers are mostly the Italian natives of Ascoli Piceno and few if any tourists can be visible.  Enthusiastic residents cheer for one of six champions, each representing a specific sestiere, or neighborhood, in the town. Out on the field, elite seating areas are filled with spectators wearing the colors of their team. After the initial opening ceremony the jousting ensues in a course shaped like a racetrack which is cut diagonally.

The race is always an energetic show. Riders gather momentum as they thunder around the track. They finally lunge through the middle, lance forward, to pummel a cardboard figure of a Saracen, or Moor. The system of scoring may seem somewhat mysterious to the onlookers. However, within moments a score gets posted and loud cheers erupt from fans for that sestiere. If you decide to attend the event, be mindful of the hot and lengthy afternoon. For visitors with kids an hour or two is more than enough. 

The Evening and Night time Celebrations

With dusk came another colorful and lively musical procession on the day of La Quintana at Ascoli Piceno. The proud winner of the joust is one of the many in medieval garb as the parade passes through the wonderful and huge Piazza Arringo. It then moves deeper into the town’s magnificent old quarter. There is hardly a tourist to be seen. The sight of the costumed procession moving by as darkness fell is always so wonderful. Then all ages celebrated in the town as the sun sinks low in summer.

You can spot gatherings of family and friends, eating outdoors in the giant Piazza Arringo, babies in strollers, kids dashing around, shops open late. It is always a great experience to wander through the extensive old quarter. This is wondrously preserved, with the light-colored travertine stone that glows at night. There is a church at one end of Piazza Arringo. It is still open at midnight, with classical music playing within. With a tint of humor a sign outside advises that dogs shouldn’t be brought inside. You can observe families enjoying their meals at al fresco and then catch glimpses of fireworks in the night sky. 

Suggestions For Visiting La Quintana Festival

The event begins on the second weekend of July and continues till 5th August. Be well prepared to arrive at Ascoli Piceno by the 4th of August at the maximum. This is so you do not miss the main event and the final procession going towards Piazza Arringo.  Anyone who is in the area at around that time really should try and get to Ascoli. As it is well worth the trip even if it is only to visit Ascoli itself. Another visit that is apparently worth the time is the medieval banquet in Civitella Del Tronto.

This is a 20 minute drive from Ascoli just over the border in Abruzzo. This is apparently on for three days during the second week of August. But as for La Quintana, you have to book in advance. To purchase the tickets for the Quintana and to watch the actual final games in the stadium visit the ticket office behind the Meletti bar. However the tickets are quite expensive (children pay the same price as adults). According to the Lady in the ticket office the best place is in the public gardens near the Campo Dei Giochi as it is well shaded. Problem is that it is expected everyone else will be there as well unless you get there early. Seats are unassigned so it is first come, first get a seat. 

Remember Some Thing:

Remember to bring water and stay hydrated or you might lose consciousness due to the scorching sun and suffocating crowds. Moreover, parking is an actual nightmare. It is advised that you investigate traveling into Ascoli from the coastal direction using the little train. Thus park away from the town center. Tickets for the train cost next to nothing, and are bought at the Tabaccaio or Newsagents. or are two sites where train time tables can be downloaded. You should also remember to check your ticket on the station platform.

You might need to keep refreshments and hats. A total of 4 hours is what it takes for the entire procession to move about and find its way across the streets. There are at least 400 people in their medieval costumes to add to the hard work. They use authentic garb, and it is heavy and hot as it can be around 35 degrees during the procession. It is important to note that there are 2 processions around the town. The first on the night before the Palio. It terminates at the Duomo for the blessing of the Palio itself (a painted banner). The second one assists the Tug of War competition on the piazza outside the Duomo.