The Palio del Niballo, born in its modern version in 1959, has its historical roots in the Middle Age of Faenza, dominated by struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines. The first jousting was the Barbarossa Tournament, a quintana wanted in January 1164 by the emperor Federico Barbarossa, who wanted to verify the mastery of the Faenza in battle, when was a guest of Enrico and Guido Manfredi, gentlemen of the city. On that occasion he jostled himself with wooden weapons in a garden called Broylo located behind the Manfredi house, in current Baroncini street (Rione Giallo). The event remains for a long time imprinted in the popular memory and, after that one of Barbarossa, over the centuries other four other rides took place in Faenza.


This is probably the oldest traditional Palio in Faenza. It took place on July 27th and was organized by the “matriculation of shoemakers”, whose patron saint was precisely San Nevolone. It is not known when the demonstration began: certainly a few years after the death of the Faenza ascetic, which took place on 27 July 1280. At that time the day of San Nevolone was a public holiday and the shoemakers celebrated the party with a parade of unspecified districts (in a chronicle of the time we talk about the district of the Dragon). Thus, a local spirit already exists in Faenza in the 13th century, which often led to political disputes too: a chronicler of the time said that the Guelph faction of the city resided in the districts of Porta Ponte and Porta Ravegnana, while in Porta Imolese and Porta Montanara supported the Ghibelline faction.


In 1410 Gian Galeazzo I reformed the Statutes of the city also establishing the offers that the community must make on the occasion of the main city festivals. Between them, the feast of the Assumption on August 15, with the people who went to Santa Maria Foris Portam the day before to offer the candles, and the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, with offerings made to the Chapter of the Canons for the embellishment of the Cathedral. The Palio dell’Assunta, called bravium, was held on August 16th and the prize for the winner was a palio (from the Latin palium, literally mantle or very fine cloth) of green color and purchased by the Municipality, which offered a prize also in the second and third place – respectively a roast pork and a rooster with spices and garlic, tradition recovered in the Palio del Niballo.


It was played on the day dedicated to the saint, on June 29th. We find the first official news in the Statutes of 1410 but its institution could be older, given that since ancient times – the oldest news dates back to 1136 – San Pietro was chosen as the protector of Faenza. The birth of this palio could be linked to the San Pietro festivity which was celebrated from 1379 to 1387. From 1410 onwards: the only variant with respect to the Assumption’s bravium is given by the color of the cloth, red instead of green. For the rest, the race always started from Pieve Ponte and also the prizes (palio, roasted pork and rooster with spices) were the same.


The first official information on the Quintana del Niballo dates back to February 13, 1596, but most probably it was already disputed earlier. Unlike other events held on the occasion of religious festivals, the quintana was held for the last week of the carnival, with a prize awarded by the Council of Elders. The quintana, built in iron, was called Niballo, whose etymology derives from the vulgarization of the word Hannibal, a Carthaginian general whose brother Asdrubale caused the devastation of the city in the year 208 BC. and that in medieval times it embodied in a broad sense the Moorish enemy, the terrible Saracen. The honor of participating was the prerogative of the nobles, while the people were rooting for one or the other, sometimes becoming so excited that the intervention of the governor of the city was necessary. Some documents confirm that this competition, to which the present Palio del Niballo is linked took place until 1796, when the upheavals linked to the French revolution also reached Faenza.