Speed, precision, perseverance: these are the ingredients making the jousting tournament of Faenza one of the most compelling and demanding in Italy. The first edition of the Palio of Faenza in its modern version was held on Sunday, 28th June 1959, in the eve of the feast of St. Peter, the apostle to whom the Cathedral of Faenza is dedicated. Since then the jousting has been held every year on the fourth Sunday of June by the five knights representing the five districts of Faenza: Borgo Durbecco, Rione Giallo, Rione Nero, Rione Rosso and Rione Verde. “As the sun goes down”, according to tradition, the challenge begins.
A very unique jousting tournament
The Palio of Faenza is a challenge engaging the two contenders, galloping on their horses, to hit before the opponent the target placed on the stretched arm of the Niballo – the great figure with features of a warrior representing the old Saracen enemy – located in the center of the riding area. An enthralling, demanding and uncertain race to the last: a single good ride is not enough for the rider to gain the prize, that is the drape decorated every year for the occasion by a well-known artist.
The completion is taking place in eight rounds for each knight: each contender challenges the other four riders and in turn is challenged by everyone. At the end of each challenge, the winner gets a shield from the beaten knight with the emblem of his district and at the end of the twenty rounds the knight who has won the most emblems is declared the winner of the Niballo.
Il Niballo: much more than a race
Around the competition there are side events that have gradually become regular meetings in the city during the month of June, also known as the “month of the Palio”, together with other occasions taking place throughout the year. The official beginning of the month of the Palio is set forth by the ceremony of the Donation of the candles, in May, while the conclusion of the activities of the Niballo takes place with a big party the night of 5th January with the Nott de Bisò and its great fire of the Saracen puppet in Piazza del Popolo.
Events, food stands and propitiatory dinners: throughout the month of June the five districts of Faenza organize the “Weeks of the Palio”, a way to experience the jousting of the Niballo in an atmosphere of celebration and conviviality. The Districts headquarters thus become places for different kinds of events, open to local and non-local people: cultural events, sporting events and food stands offering the best of Romagna cuisine.