The Festa di San Cerbone is Massa Marittima on one of its high days and holidays. Every year, on the 10th of October, the whole of Massa Marittima and its shops and schools takes a holiday and everyone is in town.
This event is one of my favourites. For although the show for which Massa Marittima is more widely known - the Balestro del Girifalco - is a fantastic experience too, this one is held out of the high summer season and is all the more relaxed for it.
It has all the colour, majesty, and tension of May and August's Balestro del Girifalco, but rather than the crowd of onlookers comprisingof holiday makers and visitors from the competing archers home towns such as Volterra or Lucca, the festival of Saint Cerbone is a much smaller, town affair. It isn't that no one else is invited, far from it: the locals - "massetani" - will welcome you with open arms if you happen to arrive on this day.
If you are in Maremma in October, don't miss it. It will give you a true taste of rural Tuscany in its best clothes.
There's a video at the bottom of the page to take you there x
For some of the best photos of the event, pop "backstage" into each of the districts just before set off and you will get to see the less formal face of the show: the practising, the final touches to the costumes, the chats between those taking part in the parade and the archers, and the good wishes of the wives and mothers.
It all starts at 15:45, when the musicians of the Societa dei Terzieri Massetani and the medieval costumed processions with drummers from each "terziere" - the ancient districts of the city - leave their part of town and walk towards Piazza Cavour where they meet and from which the parade continues - one terziere after another - through town into Piazza Garibaldi - the cathedral square.
At 16:00 in front of the "duomo", the "Trofeo San Cerbone Gara di Tiro con la Balestra fra i balestrieri della Societa dei Terzieri Massetani" - the medieval crossbow competition between the men of the ancient districts of Massa Marittima commences.
Massa Marittima has three terziere: the blue and yellow Terziere di Borgo, the red and white Terziere di Cittanuova, and the black and cream Terziere di Cittavecchia.
At 16:45 the "Esibizione della Compagnia Sbandieratori della Societa dei Terzieri Massetani" - a wonderful flag throwing exhibition - begins. It is one of Massa Marittima's very special spectacles: full of colour and incredible skill. The flag throwers practice for hours and hours throughout the year for these days.
At 17:00 in the Cattedrale di San Cerbone, the religious ceremony with the towns dignitaries and the Bishop takes place. A lot of the towns folk will pack into the cathedral. The remainder will stand chatting in the square, waiting for the announcement of the winning archer and Terziere - which comes about when the ceremony draws to a close - and their friends and family inside.
TIP The best seats in the house are on the duomo steps. And they are free :)
The tension is showing in this beautiful ladies face as the costumed procession proceeds down via into the Piazza del Duomo.
The turn of Cittanuova.
I love the expressions on the guys faces - click on the photo to see a larger image.
The tension gets to some but not to others! Watching and waiting for the arrow to sing through the air - it is a lovely sound - and then hit its target with a soft and comforting "thud". Later the sound of wood splitting as the target is already thick in arrows and the bulls eye impossible to see
You can click on this one too to see the faces!
Father and son at one and the same time aiming against each other but for the same terziere - Il Borgo.
The first arrow has left the bow... and the competition is looking on!
Time to take the stand.
Will this be the winning arrow?
The competition is over and the target is jam packed full of handmade crossbow arrows.
Taking the target away under the watchful eyes of the authorities for inspection to decide who has won this years San Cerbone trophy.
This year - 2014 - Cittanuova won the crossbow competition.
I love how the sound of drums and trumpets of a medieval celebration in the streets of Maremma bounce between the walls of the buildings and make the flag stones under my feet vibrate and me skip with joy!
I have tried hard to capture the atmosphere of the Festa di San Cerbone in this video, but I have to say that nothing beats being there in person.
TIP TURN THE VOLUME UP TO FULL :)
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