The town of Oria in the province of Taranto, Puglia holds a two day medieval re-enactment “The Tournament of the Districts” each year on the second weekend of August.
This annual event has its origins in history when in 1225 The Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa took residence in Oria whilst awaiting the arrival of his betrothed, Jolanda of Brienne the daughter of the Crusader King of Jerusalem.
To pass the time and as a mark of respect to his intended brides father, The Emperor Frederick ordered the organisation of a chivalric tournament between the four districts of the city, namely Giudea, Lama, Santo Basilio and Castello.
In keeping with the custom of the time, the actual Tournament was preceded by a by a fair and market, and a grand procession through the town in honour of the Emperor and the visiting Court of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The Tournament of 1225 involved mounted knights in jousts and displays of martial and athletic prowess between foot soldiers and citizenry, with feasts each night attended by jugglers, jesters and minstrels.
Today this event is annually re-enacted with an authentic medieval campsite erected and where all the various armed groups and district retainers will live, just as in medieval days, for the duration of the festival.
The first day of the festival comprises a procession of up to 800 volunteers dressed in period livery , complete with Destrier war horses, camels, siege machines and battering rams and all armed with replica uniforms, weapons and armour from the middle ages.
These re-enactors are divided into groups each wearing the relevant colours and heraldry representing the original four districts.
The pageant and pomp of the time is faithfully re-created with even the Emperor, resplendent on his charger at the head of the procession, acknowledging the waves and cheers of the crowded streets.
The parade winds its way through the town until it reaches the Piazza Manfredi where a herald will read the original words of proclamation by Emperor Frederick announcing the commencement of the “Palio” which starts the next day.
The second day, in the Campo dei Torneo “The Tournament Field” the actual contest begins, with cavalry jousts, racing, individual and group combat, tests of speed competency and strength all earning points which, at the end of the day are totaled from the different categories of events and are used to decide the winning district, to whom the Emperor (usually a famous actor) will award this years Palio.
If you wish to travel back nearly 800 years in time, and can tear yourself away from the luxury of the swimming pool at one of our Villas, Oria is less than 40 minutes drive from your holiday home.
Entry to the town, the procession and the military campsite is free, and tickets to enter the tournament stands themselves for the main spectacle can be booked at www.torneodeirioni.it