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The Balestro of Girifalco

The Balestro of  Girifalco is Massa Marittima’s most important tradition. This exciting event is a medieval crossbow competition where shooters from each district of the city compete twice a year, following the rules of ancient war games.
This ancient custom dates from the time when Massa was a Free Commune; the first evidence attesting the existence of this ritual dates from the 14th-15th centuries.

Based on ancient statutes, the game takes place twice a year: on the fourth Sunday in May and the second Sunday in August. Twenty-four crossbow shooters take part, eight from each of the Terzieri districts that have made up Massa Marittima since its status as a free commune was established in the 13th century.

The three districts competing against each other are Cittanuova (red and white), which includes the highest part of the city; Cittavecchia, whose black-and-white colours envelop the old town centre; and Borgo (blue and yellow), which winds along the oldest lanes of the city. Each crossbow competition takes place in the pretty town square, Piazza Garibaldi, in front of Massa’s 14th-century Cathedral of St Cerbonius.

Before the competition, over 150 people take part in a medieval procession, where clothes and instruments held by crossbow shooters and actors are chosen with extreme care. Musicians, flag bearers, ladies of honour from every district and the 24 shooters take part in this impressive procession, which winds its way down from the city summit towards the town centre.