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Florence, Italy: The Oldest Archery and Crossbow Club in the Renaissance City

Updated on November 11, 2019
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C. De Melo is the author of Amazon's bestselling historical fiction novel, SABINA and its sequel, ALLEGRA. She lives in Florence, Italy.

Titziana Furlan, 4 time Italian crossbow champion, takes aim (with Pietro Bonjovi)

Compagnia Balestrieri Fiorentini arrayed in 16th c. costumes

Replica of 16th c. crossbow

Giordano Palpacelli (left) with competition winner

Students take aim with traditional bow and arrow

Keeping History Alive.

On May 16, 1527 the Florentines drove out the Medici and proclaimed the city a Republic. This situation lasted until August 12, 1530 when a siege forced the Florentines to surrender to Emperor Charles V.

In 1537 the emperor recognized Cosimo de' Medici as the ruler of Florence in exchange for military assistance.

With his power and position securely in place, Cosimo initiated many construction projects throughout the city- including the mighty Fort Belvedere located atop the city's highest hill. He also fortified the military ramparts on the city walls of Florence.

One such example is the Baluardo di San Giorgo (Bulwark of St. George) built in 1544.

Florence's walls once boasted five strategic defensive points originally designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti, the only one that survived to this day is the Baluardo di San Giorgio.

Located on Via di Belvedere, 2, this historic site is home to the Compagnia Balestrieri Fiorenti. The club meets on Sundays to hone their skill through practice and offer lessons on the art of arceri (archery) and balestri (crossbow).

In the sixteenth century, crossbows were the most lethal weapons of the time and used in defending the city walls against enemy attacks.

The president of the club, Pietro Bonjovi, specializes in archery and offers brief lessons and demonstrations to the general public. He also has students who are learning the art. Giordano Palpacelli is the captain of the crossbow club. He teaches intro to crossbows and safety rather than aim and shoot.

Daniele de Luca, the former captain, is now retired and mentors other athletes like four time Italian crossbow champion, Titziana Furlan. She is the only woman on the crossbow team and owns eight crossbows.

The club is made up of locals who strive to keep this historical sport alive. They also maintain the Renaissance site, using funds from their own pockets. There is a modest annual membership fee and anyone can join.

Although the club does not solicit donations, if someone wishes to contribute, the gift would be greatly appreciated and used to add a much needed safety rail on the premises.

Sweeping views of the surrounding hillside can be enjoyed at the far end of the property.

To celebrate the 1527 expulsion of the Medici and the re-installation of the Florentine Republic, every year on the Sunday after May 16th the club hosts a historic event known as il Palio del Baluardo, where athletes in 16th century costumes compete with crossbows, shooting at targets distanced 25 meters. Afterward, there is a celebration, complete with flag-throwers and plenty of pomp.

For more information about joining the club, taking lessons, or making a donation, please call: +39 338 541 4429 or email: Remember, they are open to the public on Sundays so you can also just drop in to say hello.

As always, thank you for reading.

C. De Melo


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