“An entire city is the stage of another era”: the advertising poster of the “Palio di San Donato“announces that the time has come to go on stage this year in Cividale, in the true sense of the word! On August 24th, 25th and 26th, the well-known UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cividale del Friuli, in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, will turn into a gigantic outdoor theater where everything (markets and inns included) will transform into a medieval setting. Over 500 people in period costumes and 5 neighboring boroughs will gather in a sensational show. As the official statement of the event suggests: “for the Palio, the elegant and refined Cividale recalls with great historical and philological rigor the tournament that, as a celebration of the Patron Saint, was banned in the city on August 21 of each year, from the 14th century to the 1797. Today, only the Cividale, the protagonists of the pedestrian race, the archery competitions and the crossbow compete exclusively. But the entire public is involved, thanks to the magical and suggestive atmosphere that derives from the scrupulous reconstruction of the scenic settings, animated by performances of drums, jugglers, flame throwers, minstrels, jesters and musicians. The historical boroughs of Borgo Duomo, Borgo San Pietro, Borgo San Domenico, Borgo Brossana and Borgo di Ponte will compete. “
Born as an occasion for lavish entertainment aimed at both the nobility and the commoners, the Palio di San Donato seems to have its roots in the fourteenth century. The magnificent city of Cividale has been reiterating it since 1368. Since inception the Palio has consisted of a series of skill tests (from running to horse races, from crossbow and archer competitions to skilled firearms) in which the participants challenge each other while representing their villages of Cividale and other cities or houses coming mainly from Udine, Venice, Treviso and Muggia. The winners of each category would receive coveted prizes -for which the City did not pay any expense- of the best quality while last place had to be content with receiving only a small pig, a rooster, or a sparrow-hawk.
Beginning in the year 1797 (following the Napoleonic occupation), the Palio was suspended, but in 2000, after more than two centuries, it returned to the Lombard city in all its glory. After a full year of preparation and with the support of a thousand volunteers, this evocative reenactment has returned to the delight of 60,000 visitors from Austria, Slovenia, Germany, Croatia and all of Italy.
Come to witness this marvelous Palio in spectacular Cividale like the great lords and knights, sumptuous nobles and gentle ladies of long ago. The pressing music of the minstrels will captivate you, the jolly brigade of jesters and jugglers will amaze you, the contending of the villages will engage you, and the ancient flavors of the taverns will conquer you so much that you do not want to go home!
Rest assured that “home” can also be here in Cividale and that this is the ideal place to rediscover the joys of the past …
copyright photos: paliodicividale.it (foto 1 e 3), udine20.it (foto 2), messageroveneto.gelocal.it (foto 4)