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June 8, 2011 / TAB

Cortona

The purpose of visiting Cortona was seeing the annual Giostra dell’Archidado. (Sorry Under the Tuscan Sun fans, I didn’t see Bramasole.)  On Saturday night was the reenactment of the wedding of Francesco Casali and Antonia Salimbeni with entertainment provided by a corp of drummers, a ‘traveling’ band with jugglers, and flag throwers.  I got a good seat at the top of the bleachers and wouldn’t you know it whenever I lined up a shot some guy with a kid on his shoulders would step in front of the camera. There were dramatic parts when the flag throwers and the drummers performed with flaming objects and all the lights in the piazza were turned off. Oooooo!

Sunday was the crossbow competition. Each section of the city (Quintiere – 5th) provides two archers. These guys are real pros. I watched the practice round and every arrow hit the center. One guy got up, took two shots, both were dead center, so he was done. During the contest, each shooter gets 2 minutes to line up and shoot. This is timed with an hour glass carefully watched by the Field Master. So they used this in the practice round too.

Shooting the crossbow is quite the process. First, they would balance the end on the shooting stand and sight the target which is a 15 cm white cube (dice) in the center of a colored wheel. Then they would put the crossbow down and cock the bow. Then the crossbow was replaced on the shooting stand and the assistant gently placed the arrow so as not to move the position of the bow. The shooter would settle himself in position (lots of butt wiggling) and lock his legs. Then THWAK! Someone would then go to the target and pull out the arrow using a big pair of pliers.

Scoring for the contest is made with markings on the dice ranging in values from 1 to 5 points (like darts) and then the outer colored rings have negative values. I didn’t see anyone hit there in the practice round. The negative sections are labeled: The Hunchback, The Vamp, The Turtle, The Owl, The Well, and The Prison, which eliminates the shooter from the next round. Each quintiere takes one shot and then all the scores are tallied and announced on a scoreboard. Those darts are left on the dice. Another dice is put in position and the next round starts.

As it turns out, it was a good thing that I watched the practice round because the skies opened up an it poured rain just an hour before the contest was to begin. On Saturday, there was another storm with hail that lasted about 30 minutes so I hoped this one would blow over too. A poor bride had pulled up to the town hall in an antique car just s the storm got furious. She had to wait it out, is hail good luck?  I hid out in the hotel until just before the starting time and then walked to Piazza della Repubblico where the quintieri were getting organized for the procession into Piazza Signorelli. I followed them in and by that time all the places in the stands were full and all I could see were umbrellas. I walked around the outside and couldn’t find a view so I left and departed for Florence early. Oh well, there’s always next year. ;^)

By the way, for people interested in visiting Cortona. There are two types of streets, steep and vertical. Definitely take your mountain goat shoes. I did find a nice apartment for sale with a spectacular view. I also managed a visit to the Etruscan Museum and a walk in the very nice park.

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