Foligno: the Triumph of Bejeweled Baroque

June 16, 2016 / Events
Foligno, Umbria

At the end of June (18, 19 this year), the Baroque splendor of the Quintana festival takes center stage in Foligno. Festival apogee is the Sunday jousting match, rooted in the Roman history of the town, then called Fulginium. The Roman army camp – “la quintana” – was the site of the arduous training of Roman soldiers. Armed with swords or lances, the soldiers in training hurled themselves at a target in the form of a soldier holding a ring, striving to run the sword through the ring, thus honing their accuracy.

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Town documents date the first Quintana – a jousting match for entertainment of the populace – to 1418, and in 1613, the Priors governing Foligno incorporated la Quintana into the pre-Lenten celebrations, Carnevale. Today, the ten competing knights – one for each rione (“district”) of the city – gallop at breakneck speed on a challenging course, lance aimed at the Quintana statue holding three rings, progressively smaller (the smallest is just under 2 inches in diameter). Said to be the most difficult jousting match in Italy – and called “the Olympics of equestrian competitions” – the race of the Quintana draws thousands of enthusiastic spectators.

Quintana flags on regal buildings of Foligno

Splendor reigns the night before when over seven-hundred personages in bejeweled and intricately-embroidered Baroque costumes as well as over sixty horses – also lavishly decked out – parade solemnly through the banner-draped Foligno streets and piazzas to the triumphal music of trumpets and drums.

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Before the corteo storico (“parade of history”), the Folignati gather in the medieval taverne of their rioni for a propitious dinner of local specialties. One memorable year, a friend and I joined the locals of the Giotti rione (“best people – and best food!”, a Foligno acquaintance had told me) for dinner in their stone-vaulted taverna with blue and white (colors of the Giotti rione) embroidered banners draped over the entrance.

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Inside, tense excitement within was palpable: Giotti had won the Quintana the previous year and all hoped for the rivincita (“comeback”) the following day. Would their knight, Massimo Gubbini, once again bring home the glory, il Palio (the banner) – to the Giotti?

Outside their taverna, Giotti personages in Baroque splendor – of blue and white shades, logicamente – chatted before their grand entrance into the main square at 10 pm, as part of the corteo storico. Their tailor, Franco Parigi – in costume himself – now and then adjusted a delicate lace collar of a stately dama. Signor Parigi proudly illustrated the history of his costume masterpieces for us: “this one is modeled on a painting of Velasquez… and this one was worn by a 17th-century Bourbon princess… and I designed this one from a gold-embroidered Baroque altar frontspiece.”

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The evening was warm. The costumes were breath-taking but suffocatingly heavy and the starched lace collars like vises allowed little head movement to the women. The discomfort would be born for hours: the Folignates’ passione for their seventeenth century triumphing.

Giotti dama in elegance, nobleman, knights
Happy Giotti nobility ready to enter the main square
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Nobleman in front of cathedral stairs
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And any Saturday night discomfort for the Giotti nobility evaporated by the next morning: on the following Sunday, Massimo Gubbini, rode to the glory, winning the jousting match for the thirteenth year in a row. Jubilant all-night celebrations concluded at dawn in the Giotti taverna, with euphoria reigning as all fêted their preeminent “Lord of the rings.”

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Massimo Gubbiotti rode to victory last year, too, bringing home the Palio (the flag of the winner) to his Giotti district for the thirteenth time.

Will he be “the Lord of the Rings” this year, too?

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– See the Saturday night corteo storico of the Quintana – and feel the emotion:




Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

22 Responses to “Foligno: the Triumph of Bejeweled Baroque”

  1. Maria Ingham

    Fabulous historic entertainment and continuation of wonderful Umbrian-Italian traditions. Super post, thank you.

    Reply
  2. Ginny Siggia

    This is quite a turnaround from the only thing I knew about Foligno before reading this article. That is the words of Blessed Angela of Foligno (late 13th century). Widowed, she joined the Franciscans and was regarded as a mystic. Material from her book of revelations is included in the text of “Voices of Light,” a splendid composition about the Passion of Joan of Arc. It was written by the contemporary composer Richard Einhorn. I had the good fortune to sing in this piece several years ago, and the words by Blessed Angela made me want to visit Foligno.

    Reply
  3. Mairin O'Mahony

    Are people in Foligno picked for their good looks or is everyone there gorgeous? What a wonderful tradition. Thank you, Anne, for yet another marvelous and informative post. Viva l’Italia!

    Reply
  4. Anstell Ricossa

    Unbelievable pageantry and costumes ! Grazie !… Sorry to say I had never heard of Foligno . It certainly competes with the beautiful costumes of the Venice Carnivale and the excitement of the Palio in Siena !

    Reply
  5. Amelia McNeely

    What beautiful documentation of this event!!!! The photos showing the detail of the costumes were great! You are always giving us new insights to your beloved Umbria.

    Reply
  6. Don Kirchman

    What a spectacle! Love that town. Wish I would take your advice and schedule a visit with you!

    Reply
  7. Stephanie W

    Oh, I love those beautiful costumes! I so enjoy your recounting of these festivals, so makes me want to be there among the passionate Italians who know just how to celebrate their history. Love the pics! Thank you for another glimpse into this lovely part of Umbria

    Reply
  8. Matt Cappiello

    Great history…….really good. (But where was Pino?)

    Reply
  9. Thanks, Anne. It’s like seeing Baroque paintings come alive. I can’t believe how beautiful the lace collars are!

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  10. Lina Falcone

    Beautiful costumes wish I could find one, we have our Italian festival here in Ohio it would be nice to have one. Grazie del articolo.

    Reply
  11. Patricia Welch

    What a gorgeous display of pageantry! My daughter lived in Perugia for almost 7 years, so I am familiar with Foligno, but never heard of this festival. What a great alternative to sitting in front of a tv or computer, and a great way to celebrate one’s heritage. Did they rebuild the city hall (I think) tower that fell in the earthquake of ’94?

    Reply
  12. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks to all and yes, bellower of City Hall down in 1997 quake, Patricia, but all restored…and to all, Giotti did not take home the Palio! Rione Spada did with jockey Scarponi riding to victory

    Reply
  13. Marianna Raccuglia

    My goodness how will you top this!? As always, your article is so informative and the photos are truly beautiful. Imagine all this in a book. Thank you – you never disappoint.
    Tanti baci, Marianna

    Reply
  14. Diana Hiller

    The elegance and sumptuousness of the costumes is remarkable — and that’s only the horses. Wonderful photographs!

    Reply
  15. Francine Pasetti

    Anne, for us armchair travelers, you really make the event come alive with your great photographs and accompanying story. Thanks. Fran

    Reply

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