The Corteo Storico e Torneo dei Rioni (Historical costume parade and Tournament of the wards) is a historical and folkloristic event, taking place in Oria every year since 1967. Oria is a small medieval town, about 60 km Nord-west of Lecce and 30 km west of Brindisi.
The historical moment represented in the event is a tournament organized in Oria in 1225 by Fredrick II, one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages. At the time the emperor was in Oria, waiting for his bride Yolande of Brienne (Isabella II) to arrive in Brindisi from Jerusalem. The couple married by proxy some months before but the “real” marriage would have taken place in Brindisi some months later. While waiting for the bride, Fredrick II decided to release, in honour of his father in law, a tournament between the Rioni (wards) of Oria. This tournament is now reproduced every year on the second Sunday of August.
On Saturday, the day before the tournament, about 600 persons in medieval costumes parade around the city. You will see nobles, dames, knights, foot soldiers, archers, flag wavers and the athletes who will take part to the tournament, wearing clothes and waving flags in the colours of their Rione. The most important character is of course Fredrick II, the emperor. Over the last few years, the role has been played by quite famous Italian actors such as Kasper Capparoni, Alex Belli and Aldo Montano. After the historical parade, there will be a medieval show with dancers, flag wavers and fire-eaters.
When Sunday comes, the whole town gets ready for the tournament. There are 4 wards (Rioni) in the town, Castello, ]udea, Lama e Santo Basilio, and they will compete for the Palio, a cloth banner that will be given the winning Rione as a trophy. The fist event of the day is the entrance in the tournment field of Fredrick II and his court, followed by medieval horse races which give no scores for the Palio. Now it’s time for the real tournament to begin: atleths will run while carring a 80-kilo treasure chest, pass trough barrels, smash down a castle gate with a battering ram, in a competition made of 5 challenges tasting their speed, agility and balance. The Rione who will get the highest score will receive the Palio directly from Frederick II.
The event is interesting also because you can experience the daily life of the Middle Ages. Take a walk through the market to understand what people ate, watch craftsmen, blacksmiths, carpenters and weavers at work, enjoy music and dance shows.