Giostra del Saracino (Joust of the Saracen) - world's best festivals

Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy. Giostra del Saracino (Joust of the Saracen).'WINNER 2010 PHOTO COMPETITION' by To TuscanyCreative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs

Location: Grande Piazza, Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy

Dates: penultimate Saturday in June and first Sunday in September. 1 Sep 2013; 7 Sep 2014; 6 Sep 2015.

Level of participation: 3 - don some breeches and see the jousters charge

Taking the baton from Siena’s Il Palio, Arezzo’s medieval jousting tournament is like taking a ride in a time machine to the days of knights and maidens. Churches are decorated with pictures of 12th-century crusaders and the streets fill with costumes from an era predating even Giorgio Vasari, the Renaissance heavyweight who grew up here.

Following a blessing by the bishop on the steps of the 13th-century cathedral, the parade ends in the Grande Piazza, the venue for the afternoon’s archaic fun. Proceedings are begun by the sbandieratori (flag wavers), touting the standards so loved by territorial medieval types. The jousters and their horses sport the colours and symbols of Arezzo’s four districts, which are all hoping to win the Golden Lance. Rather than aiming their lances at each other, contestants score points by hitting a wooden target held by a carving of a Saracen (Islamic) king.

The tradition possibly derives from a jousting display held to honour a knight in the late 13th century, and was certainly going strong by the early 19th century.

Essentials: wear a doublet or tunic for that heraldic look.

Local attractions: Arezzo was bombed heavily in WWII but many buildings still stand. The Chiesa di San Francesco contains frescoes by Piero della Francesca.

More info: in Italian

See other top festivals in September here.