The Astiludio

It was October the 18th, 1406 when Giorgio, the knight bachelor of the Captain Ugolino Guasconi, spread all over the city the news of the conquest of Pisa by the Florentines occurred on October the 9th; so great was the joy of Volterra citizens that both messengers (one by the Arts Priori and Justice flag-thrower, the other one on behalf of the Guelfi captains) were provided with 9 ells of scarlet cloth for their horse-clothes, little shoes, long socks, new hats and golden finishes; many illuminations took place to celebrate this event and a lot of wine barrels got ready together with the long authorities lunch table crossing the main square all over; “…but the main attraction of the celebrations were not the warlike performances of the veterans and resident soldiers.. it actually was a crowded flag-throwing made by young people for the whole day and through the whole city to the rhythm of drums, with an amazing ability..the city council itself bought 57 flag-poles “pro Astiludendo” (for flag-throwing) together with parchment paper which was used to make little plates painted with the City Council arms to be sewn on the clothes of those young people who showed their abilities through the city streets; they should have been a lot, and they shouldn’t wear a uniform only, maybe they turned over in groups depending on districts and contado (country folks) (source: M.Bocci – Rassegna Volterrana – 1981). ASTILUDIUM comes from medieval latin HASTA (flag) and LUDUS (games, feasts); today it is called the ASTILUDIO that brings the citizens of Volterra, and especially the numerous tourists, back to the medieval atmosphere made by the old flag tournaments traditions where Tuscany has a predominant role; a competitive and choreographic tournament that mixes the aim of evoking an old city feast and the chance to gather the flag-wavers of Volterra with other important Italian flag-wavers goups with old tradition and success. The first Sunday of September, right at 3.15 p.m., all the bells of each district ring at the same time and in that moment the four parades/processions, coming from each of the four districts, move toward the main square to start the tournament. If we have a walk around Volterra in the first Sunday of September, we have the feeling to be back in the medieval times, around six centuries before, among soldiers and crossbowmen, knights and Madonnas, heralds and flag-holders, colourful flags flying to the rhythm of drums and clarions, all of this in a wonderful and unique scenario.