Palio della Mannaja (The Axe Festival)

The Palio della Mannaja is the most important event in Pietralunga. It takes place  on the second Sunday of August  and the  week before,  starting from Monday,  is rich of interesting events. Its inhabitants live this event with such a passion as to actively involve  also occasional visitors .
The event, considered one of the most important in Umbria, dates back to 1982 from the idea of the historian Antonio Alpine from Pietralunga.  
The historian was  inspired by a real event  that took place on  11th  September 1334 whose  protagonist was the French pilgrim Giovanni di Lorenzo of Picardy
He was on a pilgrimage to Lucca on occasion of the Holy Cross festivity. While passing through our territory, once called “ Pratalonga”, he saw the body of a man that had been murdered shortly before. The pilgrim was wrongly charged with this murder and sentenced to death.
The poor man turned with hope to the Holy Face towards which was bound and at the moment of execution while the executioner was striking the fatal blow, with great ,  he saw the blade of the axe turn on itself: the man’s life was saved and  everybody  hailed the event as a miracle.
There are many witnesses to this fact  like the letter signed by Branca dei Branci, who was the Podestà ( Mayor)  of Pietralunga and the mannaja (axe) preserved in the Cathedral of Lucca.
The event aims at celebrating this miracle and recreating a glimpse of medieval life.
It starts on Monday evening with handing over the keys of the city and with  the performance of the local band “ Filarmonica Pietralunghese” then it continues with the  performance of the local polyphonic choir in the charming piazzetta  (small square) of the clock and with the group of drummers and flag wavers “ La Rocca” In Piazza 7 Maggio (the main square of the village).One of the few in Italy to have women
Late on Thursday there is  the traditional and spectacular dinner of the Palio in the beautiful Piazza 7 maggio at the foot of the Lombard fortress. The fascinating walls of the Palazzo Fiorucci, the Church and the Town Hall create a backdrop to the investiture of the captains of the people and neighbourhoods. On Saturday night the historical reenactment of the miraculous event “ Miracolo della Mannaia”is represented. Over the weekend there is also the beautiful historical medieval parade that marches through the streets and the opening of shops, inns and taverns in the historical centre.
The heart of the Festival remains, however, the impressive Biroccio race that takes place  on Sunday afternoon.
It starts with the kid’s race  and continues with the adults’ race a great challenge between  the districts of the city.
Five districts compete for the Palio along the streets of the village: Borgo De Sopra, Borgo De Sotto, Quartiere del Monte, Quartiere delle Valcelle e Quartiere del Piscinale
Racers need to push by hand a cart weighing 430 kg up a fixed path. The cart is   similar to those used to carry he condemned to death during the Middle Ages.  They will have to complete the path as quickly as possible.
The Bell of the clock, a symbol of the village , announces the beginning and the end of the race. The racing teams, with a maximum number of  25 men each, must give proof of their skills and strength in  a very challenging competition.  The race is not to be missed as it offers a considerable visual impact and   a high level of involvement and excitement