Tuscany in July gives the best of itself, with lots of cultural events taking place all over the region, historical reenactments being performed by artists, musicians, jesters and flag-throwers all dressed up in medieval costumes, ready to take the public back in time, even if for just a few hours. A sort of open-air museum but, especially during July, an open-air music stage, where some of the most important and renowned international artists will fill streets and squares with their captivating notes, and some of the most fascinating cities of art as marvellous backdrops.
Tuscany offers then the best of its most representative aspects, culinary festivals included which - especially in Summer - offer the perfect occasion for enjoying traditional dishes, fun and music open-air: even if they are a sort of recurring events along the Tuscan tradition, they represent - at the same time - the jewels on this region’s crown.
There are so many events this months that are worthy of being mentioned that it’s really difficult to decide which one to start from...let’s have a look!
Pistoia: tradition dances on the blues music notes
Pistoia is actually worthy of being at top of this section, since July is maybe the busiest month of this quaint city's annual calendar, situated at the feet of the Pistoiese mountains. The feast day for the patron saint - July 25 - is annually celebrated with a grand tournament, the Giostra dell’Orso (or Joust of the Bear), a great horse contest between the historical districts of Pistoia that takes place in Piazza del Duomo, transformed into a large oval track surrounded by bleachers for the spectators to enjoy the event. Celebrations in honour of the patron saint will be held all the day long, but the real tournament takes usually place at 9.30 pm, when temperatures are usually a bit more acceptable. For a bit of history, more information about hours, prices and how to get to Pistoia, have a look at our article. Last year the tournament was suspended, but this year it will be going to honor the Patron Saint celebrations once again on the 25th and, after a few years, on the 2nd with a historical parade that will be officially opening the manifestation.
But the Joust of the Bear is not the only important event taking place in July in Pistoia: being in its 37th year, the Pistoia Blues Festival always fires up all the spectators enjoying rock and blues concerts to the rhythm of some of the most famous singers in the world. Concerts are usually held in the marvellous Piazza del Duomo, with the Cathedral as spectacular backdrop and the tiny streets located all around crowded with typical food stands and handicrafts products...perfect for a sandwich to enjoy before the concerts or a bit of shopping just after. The festival will start on July 5 and go through the month till July 16, with 8 dates and some of the most exciting artists - such as Skunkanensie, Mika & Bastille - performing on one-of-a-kind music stage. For more details, take a look at our article.
Siena: let the Palio begin!
Every year, on July 2 (and August 16) one of the most famous Tuscan event ever is held in a magnificent background, the shell-shaped square Piazza del Campo in Siena: the Palio, which is maybe the most eagerly awaited date with the Tuscan and Italian tradition. It’s a horse race in the very heart of the city center, during which the various contrade (or better, quarters or areas in which Siena is divided) challenge in other in what is commonly referred to as a more than a simple challenging game for a senese. Each person who lives in Siena is part of a contrada and, consequently, participates in its life, constantly in competition with the others!! For the occasion, Piazza del Campo (or better, the ring around the square) is covered with tuff clay. The horse race usually takes place in the late afternoon, after the historical parade - composed by more than 600 people in costumes representing the several contrade, that will wind their way through the tiny streets of the center for getting to Piazza del Campo. During the morning, the segnatura dei fantini takes place in the presence of the mayor. A full day rich of events, emotions, music, adrenaline and excitement: our full article will give you a more exact idea of what to expect!
Siena however doesn’t mean only Palio: there are many interesting cultural initiatives aimed to get in closer touch with the city, its history and traditions so that tourists, both Italian and not, may have the unmissable chance to get to know an enchanting place like this. The event I would like to point out is going to take place from July 4 to September 30 every night after sunset (except of Sundays and the days from August 13 to 16). La Divina Bellezza (The divine beauty) - Dreaming Siena consists in two 3D projections per night focused on the Cathedral and the city of Siena and their history, like a sort of jump back in time through a visive tale narrated in 4 different languages, aimed to promote the intrinsic value of the most important artistic and architectural works of art and buildings of Siena, that are all important tiles of the city historical mosaic. More info and ticket costs on the official website.
Stepping out to the province, you are sure to find exciting events as well: Monteriggioni di torri si corona, that actually is divided into two separate dates (7-8-9-10 July 2016 and 15-16-17 July, 2016) - inside the ancient castle and will consist of a series of events with poets, singers, master craftsmen and artists inspired of the themes Arts, Games and Festivals during Dante's time. For the complete and detailed program, take a look at the official website (only in Italian).
The town of Montalcino, internationally renowned for its prestigious wine Brunello, will be home to Jazz & Wine from July 12 to 17, an interesting manifestation aimed to bring the cheerful sound of jazz amidst vineyards, thanks to the precious collaboration of Castello Banfi wine estate. The full program and the 6 concerts exact dates will be soon available on the Castello Banfi official website.
Chianciano Terme will be also housing a festival where music will be harmoniously matched with high quality and zero miles food products, handcraft and creative markets (from July 20 to 24 at the Fucoli Park). But the most interesting event taking place in this quaint Tuscan location is going to start on July 1 and will be running throughout the entire month: Notti Archeologia 2016 (Nights Archaeology 2016) will be offering a rich program of guided visits to the local Etruscan Museum, nigh trekking excursions to the thermal springs, to the most secret corners of the city, to the surrounding vineyards, extraordinary openings for the Etruscan Museum and many, many other events; take a look at the entire and detailed program. All the initiatives are totally free.
Kicked off on late June and running throughout July 20, the Chianti Festival will be taking place in some of the most enchanting and suggestive places of Tuscany and the region of Chianti - Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole and Castellina in Chianti - with theatre, dance and music shows, live performances and exhibitions. Ticket costs and dates are already available here.
Casole d'Elsa will be home to a whole week (July 4 - 10) full of events and manifestations, with the Palio di Casole d'Elsa horse race as the final and highest event of the week. Qualification for the final race will be taking place on Saturday July 9 at 9.30 am, while the Palio - in its 142nd year - will be run on Sunday July 10 starting from 7 pm, with the historical parade, flag throwers and drummers winding their way through the centre from mid afternoon. At the end of the Palio, spectacular fireworks will be advising everyone the end of the Palio week. For the entire program, take a look at the Casole d'Elsa official website (only in Italian).
Being in its 7th year, the international (and itinerant) festival Musica negli Horti will be taking place in the Valdorcia from July 19 to 24, with some of the most Tuscan enchanting landscapes and quaint villages as great backdrops to concerts, cooking lessons, wine-and-food tastings. A festival dedicated not only to great music, but also to the natural and architectural tresures of this area of Tuscany and its culinary delights. A festival aimed to tempt visitors to get to know and going deeper into this region of rare beauty and its tradition. Further information on the Musica negli Horti website.
Lucca turns itself in a music live stage!
Three words are enough to introduce you the main Lucca’s event: Lucca Summer Festival. An entire month dedicated to high quality music with some of the most popular international artists of any time. Being in its 19th year now, this festival keeps on welcoming some of the most renowned musicians and singers in the world, performing at live concerts that always draw thousands of people, who can’t wait to enjoy what maybe is the exclusive Italian and European date of these artists. Set up in the heart of Lucca’s center - in Piazza Napoleone - these music performances boast of one-of-a-kind backdrop, which contributes to create the magic that surrounds the walled city during these evenings. From July 9 to 27, Lucca will have the honour to welcome artists such as Van Morrison, Tom Jones, Marcus Miller, Lionel Richie, Vinicio Capossela, Simply Red, Neil Young just to mention some. For the entire calendar and the complete list of the artists performing during the festival, take a look at official website English pages.
Lucca celebrates every year its patron saint - San Paolino - on July 12 with an event denominated I giorni di San Paolinio (San Paolino’s days): three days (from 10 to 12) full of music and fun with musicians, people dressed in costumes, flag throwers and artists entertaining visitors and inhabitants, who always eagerly await for the key event of the manifestation, the Palio di San Paolino. It’s a crossbow competition (dating back to ancient times) among the three rioni - districts - of the city that usually takes place in Piazza San Martino.
Moving towards Camaiore, there’s another event that the local community eagerly await for every year: the Palio dei Rioni on July 2, 9 and from July 13 to 16. The manifestation will consist of a competition among the different rioni of the city that will challenge in other in several games such as tug-of-war, short marathon, sack race, and many others.
Remainig close to the Versilia area, there will be the International Fireworks Festival in Forte dei Marmi: kicked off in June, two are the dates in program for this July: 9 and 23 the final night, for a sort of fireworks competition that will be lighting up the sky above this famous sea resort of Versilia.
Before leaving aside the Versilia area, I would like to focus on an event which will be in its 2nd year now: The Seravezza Blues Festival, that is going to take place on July 14, surrounded by the amazing scenery of the Palazzo Mediceo in Seravezza. Many artists will perform on the stage, creating a memorable blues music experience and drawing lots of passionates and people who desire to spend a night under the stars as well. Read the complete program on their Facebook page.
Moving out towards the Garfagnana area, Castelnuovo will be housing the Street Love on July 2 and 3: a festival aimed to bring music, food and culture together, focused on the street food increasing tendence. Visitors will have the chance to taste local products as well as some of the most representative recipes of the other Italian regions, together with traditional and handicraft stands, live art and music performances that will give life to one-of-a-kind manifestation.
On the same dates, Fosciandora - Garfagnana - will be housing Sapori & Calici sotto le Stelle, a sort of itinerant tasting experience along the quaint streets of the historical center; local products and specialties will be the perfect complement to the prestigious wine this little town is very renowned for.
Another interesting event is aimed to connect several of the Via Francigena stops throughout music: the Francigena International Arts Festival wants to spread out the culture and tradition revolving around the Francingena Route with 5 concerts taking place during July and 5 during the month of August, both in Lucca and Altopascio. More info and the detailed program will be soon available here.
At the end of Lucca and province section, I could not forget to mention two important and unmissable dates with classic music, dance and theatre performances: La Versiliana Festival, taking place from July 11 to August 26 in Marina di Pietrasanta (more info, ticket costs and details on the official website, that will be soon updated), proposing several activities and shows also for children. The second is the renowned Festival Puccini, a manifestation that will be in its 62nd edition this year, dedicated to some of the the greatest Giacomo Puccini's operas, including Tosca, Madama Butterfly, La Bohème, Turandot and many others. Browse the official website for exact dates and more detailed information.
Medieval times in the province of Massa Carrara
On July 16 and 17, Fivizzano will be home to Disfida arcieri di terra e di corte,a manifestation with people dressed up in historical costumes aimed to evoke the ancient competitions among the 5 districts of the city, that used to challenge in other, divided into those belonging to the area of the town enclosed by the walls and those that used to protect the town.
On July 22 and 23, Ponzanello, a small locality close to Fosdinovo, will be home to Ponzanello illuminà, a suggestive manifestation during which the quaint village situated in the Lunigiana region will be literally lit up with candles and torches offering a spectacular show, and crowded with hundreds of street artists, musicians, people in costumes performing along the tiny streets and inside the characteristic wine cellars, where visitors will have the chance to try out the local specialties, paying with the sesterzi, the currency used at that times.
Livorno, a glimpse of Venice in Tuscany
There’s a neighborhood in the heart of Livorno historical center, situated close to the New Fortress, that is called La Venezia for its urban and architectural structure, that actually reminds of the northern city’s one-of-a-kind lagoon. From July 27 to 31, La Venezia will turn into an open-air stage, with artists performing in every tiny square and stands of crafts, antiques and objects crowding the tiny streets running along the waterways and canals - the Fossi Medici - art exhibitions, live concerts, cultural and theatre events. There will also be wine and food stands and even the local bars and restaurants will set outdoor tables and chairs to better enjoy the enchanting atmosphere of La Venezia festively lit up. More detailed information on our dedicated article. The official website will be soon updated with this 2016 edition program, so stay tuned for upcoming news and event!
Here and There in Tuscany
A rich program has been scheduled - as every year - for this 2016 edition of Prato Estate: guided visits to the Castle of the Emperor, cultural initiatives surrounded by the marvellous background of Sant'Orsola Gardens (music, theatre, cinema exhibitions, workshops for children), tastings, extraordinary openings of the Palazzo Pretorio that will be home to conferences, concerts and much more. On the Pratoestate website there are all the scheduled events for you to consult.
A gastronomic itinerary will be taking place in Chiusi della Verna - province of Arezzo - on July 23: long tables will be set up along the tiny streets, crowded with artists, musicians, jesters, drummers (Alla Corte del Conte).
Florence, where time seems to stand still
A real explosion of art and creativity in Florence and its surroundings throughout the month of July! Certaldo will be home to one of the most impressive street art festivals ever, the Mercantia (July 13-17), during which the quaint Florentine village will be turned into a font of artistic ideas, while visitors will suddenly find themselves wandering amidst amazing artists and waders, in a real fantastic world. Cerreto Guidi and Palazzuolo sul Senio, instead, will take people back in time to the Middle Age, with persons in costumes, drummers, flag-throwers and jesters, in occasion of Le Notti di Isabella (July 2 and 3) and Il medioevo alla corte degli Ubaldini (July 22-24), respectively. Florence is getting ready to welcome all passionates of art with some interesting initiatives: the Bargello Museum, together with the Cappelle Medicee, will be offering special guided itineraries included in the ticket musem, while the Uffizi Gallery will be housing a series of cultural events that I recommend taking part in. Find more events, culinary festivals and manifestations on our article"July in Florence".
Have a good...medieval time to the sound of great music!