La giostra dell’ Orso a Pistoia

July is a great month for Pistoia: there’s the Pistoia Blues Festival, which takes place every year in the first week of the month, plus lots of events such as the Archaeological Nights and journeys to discover the Apennines. On top of this there’s also an event that is all about tradition: the Joust of the Bear, held on July 25 every year.

The Giostra dell’Orso (Joust of the Bear) is held in the central piazza Duomo of Pistoia and is a modern twist on the ancient, traditional palio race that has been held here since the middle of the twelfth century.

The name of the event is quite new; it has been called Giostra dell’Orso since 1947 but the origins are lost in the mists of time. The bear (in Italian “orso”) is the heraldic animal of Pistoia and the Giostra is the high point of the Luglio Pistoiese, the best month in town.

On July 25 Pistoia also celebrates its patron saint, St. Jacob, so you can imagine how religion is intertwined with folklore.
The Joust of the Bear starts at 9.30am, when people from each district gather from the gates of their part of town (Porta al Borgo, Porta Carratica, Porta Lucchese and Porta S. Marco) to go to Piazza del Duomo. 10am is when the parade of the districts and the citizens’ committee get under way, which departs from Piazza del Duomo and head for the city walls. At 11am Mass is held in the cathedral in honour of Saint Jacob. The last thing to happen in the morning is that lots are drawn for the knights: they are matched for each tournament. The draw takes place in the Sala Maggiore in Palazzo degli Anziani, in the presence of the Mayor of Pistoia.

(Credits foto premuda Pistoia –

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