8th of August 2010

Seen as one of the most curious events held in Tuscany, the Salto della Contessa reconstructs the legendary death of Pia dei Tolomei, described by poet Dante Alighieri in Canto V of Purgatorio, in La Divina Commedia.

According to his story, the young Pia is kidnapped and trapped in the Castello di Pietra in Gavorrano before falling to her death from its highest tower. Dante suggests that her killer was her own husband, a Sienese nobleman named Nello, who wanted to marry Margaret Aldobrandeschi. Others believe Nello was overcome by jealously after he saw his friend Ghino trying to court Pia.

Whilst the details of this legendary event are profoundly ancient and hardly precise, the festival’s reenactment never fails to be both evocative and extremely accurate, with the locals never straying from the words that Dante wrote.

The festival begins with the division of the town, one half represents the the Pannocchieschi family of Nello in red and gold, while the other represents the Ptolemies of Pia in silver and blue.

Every single person who lives in Gavorrano has a surprisingly convincing medieval costume ready for this day. No one is left out and everyone, locals and tourists, get the festivities started with a feast that captures the best of traditional Maremman cuisine and medieval table manners. There’s even some medieval music and dances.

After the feast, everyone gathers to reenact the play and the part of Pia, performed by one lucky young local, a role always highly coveted by the women of Gavorrano. The festival ends just before dusk with the brutal death of Pia, who is dragged by two guards to the highest tower of Gavorrano and thrown into the darkness.

It’s truly an incredible festival to be a part of whether or not you have a slight soft spot for medieval history or just want to see the words of Dante and local legend come alive. Plus the food is great and the party atmosphere addictive!

For more info and some great photos of the festival check out the Pro Loco of Gavorrano web page

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