Sansepolcro, The Palio della Balestra

Every year, Sansepolcro celebrates its Renaissance identity with the Palio Festivities, culminating in the Palio della Balestra between Gubbio and Sansepolcro, held on the second Sunday of September. On this occasion, about eighty crossbowmen take turns at the shooting benches, aiming to hit the "bulletta del corniolo," the central point of the target, with their bolts. This shooting competition has been historically documented since 1594, but reliable sources suggest that the challenge occurred even earlier, making the Palio an essential tradition.

The day of the Palio della Balestra, the centuries-old challenge between the armed men of Sansepolcro and Gubbio, is filled with events. The morning begins with the Herald's appearance and the reading of the Challenge Proclamation. In the afternoon, the Palio takes place, followed by the evening Parade in the historic center of Sansepolcro in honor of the winner. Throughout the day, visitors can stroll through the Sant’Egidio Market, a faithful costume reconstruction of a Renaissance market.

In September, the city comes alive with fascinating cultural initiatives and shows, involving all the local historical associations. There are challenges, music and dance performances, conferences, historical parades, and events that annually attract the enthusiasm of residents and thousands of tourists.

The evening before the Palio is dedicated to the Sansepolcro Flag-Wavers Group (Gruppo Sbandieratori di Sansepolcro), renowned worldwide for their extraordinary choreography and the skill of their flag bearers. The Sansepolcro Flag-Wavers Group, consisting of flag bearers, drummers, and trumpeters, uses hand-painted drapes and wears costumes produced by qualified theatrical tailors. In addition to the exercises codified in manuals, the Flag-Wavers draw inspiration from the geometries of Piero della Francesca.

Piero della Francesca, one of the greatest masters of the Italian Renaissance, was born in Sansepolcro. His hometown is infused with his works, such as the famous 'Resurrection,' which embodies the harmony and innovative perspective of his artistic genius.
Sansepolcro, with its fascinating Palio della Balestra and the artistic legacy of Piero, remains an essential destination for lovers of culture and beauty.

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