Città della Pieve is a charming hilltop town in Umbria with around 8000 inhabitants.
Like many similar towns it is divided into three districts or ‘Terzieri ‘ each one with its own flag and costumes and bands. This division began way back in medieval times and was then class based.
In the case of Città della Pieve an eagle represents the three different districts or classes.
The head of the eagle being Terziere Castello and the knights. The Aristocracy.
The stomach of the eagle being Terziere Borgo Dentro and the people living within the castle walls. The middle class..
The wings and tails being Terziere Casalino and the people living within this district would have been the peasants.
The actual Palio dei Terzieri was only introduced in 1962 by the parish priest but it has home one of the most lavish, popular and entertaining medieval festivals in Umbria.
The last Sunday of August is usually the last day and the most exciting day of the festival which starts a week or so earlier with ‘the challenge’ when the Pallium is returned by last year’s winning district.
Events are held each day of the following week usually in the evening.
We must have watched the events of the last Sunday and the ‘Palio’ more than twenty times but it still thrills! My advice would be to get there by lunch to enjoy a walk around the town and some lunch. Then, as it gets to 4 0’Clock wander and linger in the three different districts of the town and enjoy watching the preparations for the parade. These preparations are as much fun as the parade itself. This year I spent the pre-parade time in the Terziere Borgo Dentro as you will see from the video link below:
The parade is just incredible! The three Terzieri process with evidence of their original occupations from oxen to canons shooting footballs into the crowd! It is colourful, noisy and unforgettable!
The route is along the Main Street and culminated in the most incredible flour fight leaving the area and people looking like they have been caught in a snowstorm.
The procession then leads onto an adjacent field (admission to seating is about €7) where the actual Palio takes place. This is an archery competition during which members from the three districts compete shooting arrows at large white cutouts of oxen.
Then, as the sun sets, everyone progresses back along the Main Street to their own districts. I love this last procession. The majority of tourists have left. It is tranquil and the light and atmosphere are magical.
By this time the different ‘Tavernas’ representing the three Terzieri will be opening giving you the opportunity to linger over delicious food and wine in a truly medieval atmosphere.