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  • Florence's Calcio Storico: First, divide the city into its traditional neighborhoods for teams, cover Piazza Santa Croce with dirt, and don Renaissance costumes. Next, combine two parts soccer, one part rugby, one part (American) football, and a heaping helping of ice-hockey attitude. Give the winners a whole calf to roast in the streets and write it all off in honor of St. John the Baptist.
  • Siena's Palio: Almost anything goes at this bareback, breakneck horse race around the dirt-packed Campo, and the competitive contrade (neighborhood wards) usually make sure everything does. The square is filled with costumed pageantry before the race, and massive feasts are set up on long outdoor tables that can stretch for blocks on the medieval side streets.
  • Arezzo's Giostra del Saracino: Arezzo really comes alive for this Renaissance titling tournament where the target at which mounted jousters aim their lances swivels around and can actually hit back.
  • Gubbio's Corso dei Ceri: In one of Italy's most ancient festivals, teams of burly, costumed men trot about town all day carrying three huge towers topped with statues of saints. After a wild invocation ceremony in the piazza, they shoulder the towers (actually giant candles) and tear up the mountainside as fast as they can. The town's patron saint invariably wins.
  • Spoleto & the Spoleto Festival: Gian Carlo Menotti's annual bash brings some of the biggest names in orchestral music, dance, and theater to this ancient hill town. Many of the events are staged outside in Piazza del Duomo or the remains of a Roman theater.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.