The week leading up to the joust, the town began to buzz with excitement. Everyone started wearing the colors of their quarter of the city—red and green, blue and gold, pink and yellow, white and green. To participate in the fun, I bought a red and green flag, symbolizing the quarter of the city my apartment is situated in. When I wore it to class one day, one of the native desk attendants informed me that my quarter threw the wildest parties, and these parties weren’t likely to stop for the rest of the week. I had already put this together myself, as one of these parties had kept me up until 3 in the morning the night before.
The joust finally arrived, and that night, we wore our flags proudly—and got eliminated in the first round. A tie for first cause the joust to go to a second round, in which the pink and yellow quarter and the blue and gold quarter competed for first. Numerous near-fights broke out between the jousters, causing the master of ceremonies to step in and separate the opposing quarters.
In a word, the Italian culture I’ve been exposed to has been passionate. The quarters each were very passionate in supporting their jousters. The chefs are passionate about the food they create. The couples making out for hours on end at the park while we play frisbee? Passion. The ardour with which the Italian people live their lives is something that is different than the culture that I’m used to—a kind of sullen detachment where “good enough” is, well, good enough as long as it makes money. This passion translates especially well to food. From amazing wine to street pizza, the Italians are passionate about the quality of their food. Much of their culture revolves around food, and meal times are special here. You have to ask for the check at any restaurant, because customers are encouraged to stay as long as they’d like, socializing with their friends. The enjoyment of delicious food as a cultural goal has created a society where that same delicious food can be found on every street corner, and I love that.
The joust was a condensed form of this passion—this pride—in the culture of Arezzo. The same love that was poured into the daily jam croissants at my favorite breakfast place was poured into this night of competition and rivalries.