Palio of Niballo
Il Palio del Niballo
Faenza (Ravenna, Emilia Romagna region)
The event takes place in Faenza, an ancient Etruscan-roman town located in a fine and evocative country landscape close to the first Apennine slopes with vineyards in the hills and cultivated fields in the fertile plain, about 50 km from Bologna and 48 km from Ravenna, in Emilia-Romagna region, Italy. Faenza today is a charming city of art and heritage enriched over centuries by fine architectural and urban features, such as the magnificent cathedral, one of the most relevant building of the Renaissance art in Romagna, the beautiful squares, the Milzetti Palace with its neoclassical frescoes and the elegant Masini Theatre, as well as over 100 hectares of urban green areas. Above all Faenza is worldwide famous for the production of a fine tin-glazed pottery exported all over Europe and known everywhere just as “faïence”, from the French language pottery. Thanks to this ancient craftwork dating back to the 12th century, since the Renaissance Age the Faenza name has become synonymous with artistic ceramics.
The peak of prosperity, magnificence and glory reached by Faenza during the Middle Ages under the Manfredi Lordship is commemorated by the medieval horse race “Palio del Niballo", one of the oldest and most spectacular Italian joust, held every year on the fourth Sunday of June and consisting in a spectacular challenge in turns among five horsemen, one from each of the ancient town district. Galloping from the same starting point but in opposite directions along a 200m horseshoe track the knights meet in the middle of the pitch where is placed the target in shape of a puppet representing a Saracen warrior with both arms stretched holding an 8 cm diameter metal plate. The puppet’s name, “Niballo”, derives from the vulgarization of Hannibal, the famous Carthaginian general whose brother, Hasdrubal, was caused the devastation of the city in the year 208 BC. The knight striking first with his spear (called "bigorda") the plate, triggers a mechanism that lifts the hit arm blocking the opposite one. Before the joust takes place the great historical parade featuring over 400 participants in period costumes. Around the joust have been gradually developed other side events enriching the cultural life of Faenza throughout the year.
The night of the “Biso” (January)
On 5th January, the eve of the Epiphany, Piazza del Popolo, Faenza the main square, hosts a spectacular folk feast to celebrate the rite of the winter bonfires. “Annibale”, a huge papier-mâché puppet representing a Saracen warrior is brought on a sumptuous traditional cart pulled by oxen in the middle of the square and set on fire at midnight symbolizing the burning of all the hardships and evils of the old year and as a good wish for the new one. Several music and art shows take place and people party drinking the traditional "bisò" (the local hot and spicy mulled wine) served in the gotti (hand-decorated pottery mugs), and tasting typical dishes.
The “Donation of the Candles” (May)
In May takes place the ceremony of the “Donation of the Candles”, conceived as a tribute to St Mary of Graces, the patron saint of Faenza, on the occasion of its feast-day. Starting from their respective headquarters the historical parades of each town district move across the city towards the Cathedral, where the candle-bearers accompanied by the district leaders give to the officiating priest the candles to be kept inside the cathedral until next year.
The Flag-wavers Tournament (June)
Several are the performances of the Faenza flag-wavers during the month of June. Charming set of the competitions is Piazza del Popolo, the very heart of Faenza, with its architectures and galleries lit and animated by historical characters. The tournament starts with the challenge of the younger flag-wavers, the first Sunday in June, while the most important competitions are held on the third weekend of the month with the best town athletes being engaged in very demanding and scenic challenges accompanied by the roll of drums and the blare of trumpets.
The Joust of the Golden “Bigorda” (June)
It takes place on the second Sunday of June and takes its name from the "bigorda", the wooden spear used in jousting to hit the target. The event is also called “Palio of the Youth” to emphasize the fact that the challenging knights are the younger ones of each town district, but for the rest rules and difficulties are the same ones of the main Palio del Niballo.
Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.
Info & Contact
Palio del Niballo official website
Faenza Town Council
Address: Piazza del Popolo, 31 – 48018 Faenza (Ravenna), Italy
Tel.: +39 (0)546 691111
Servizio Cultura - Palio - Manifestazioni
Address: P.zza Rampi, 1 - 48018 Faenza (Ravenna), Italy
Tel.: +39 (0)546 691651 / 546 691664 / 546 691666
Fax: +39 (0)546 691679
Pro Loco Faenza
Address: Voltone della Molinella, 2 – 48018 Faenza (Ravenna), Italy
Tel./Fax: +39 (0)546 25231
Image: Palio del Niballo
Text sources: Palio del Niballo, Faenza Town Council, Wikipedia
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Promos and video reportages of the event: