The Torneo del Cigno Bianco 2016


Torneo 2

The truth is that I cannot do justice to the excellence of this event, but I’ll try.  For me, it is one of the most pure experiences of a Medieval deed of arms that I have; it’s good enough to make me load armour and clothes onto airplanes and fly to Italy from Canada, for example.  By the way, that’s Ser Gregario Mele and Ser Rudolpho Ordalafi fighting with lanzia or spear on foot.  Greg Mele runs the Chicago Swordplay Guild and was my teacher in the gentle art of punching a six foot spear into your opponent’s throat through his mail; Greg, along with half a dozen other experts, is responsible for the virtual red9scovery of the Medieval fighting arts in the ;last twenty years.  This blog is not about Armizare, but if you’d like to learn more, you can look on the International Armizare Society website here.

But the Torneo is a great deal more than just fighting, although the quality and quantity of the fighting is uniformly high.  The camp has good material culture; the clothes are excellent, and there are people selling hipocras and people selling wax candles and people cooking and people making shoes.  And a lot of people standing or sitting talking about the Middle Ages.  In Italian.  My Italian is not very good, but it is amazing how much Italian I can understand as long as the people talking are speaking of fighting… I call it Italiano di Spada, the Italian of the sword…

Torneo 3

It will perhaps strike you as odd, but it greatly improves my experience that everyone is speaking Italian, because part of the quality of the event is that it is in Italy.  I ‘play’ as an English knight in Italy.  Now, let’s be honest; we know that English knights in Italy spoke French; even English archers in the late 14th century seem to have communicated in French, and as far as I know all the English knights of the mercenary companies whose writings are left wrote in either French or Italian.  But… it is very… experiential… to fight in a formal deed or arms where you only barely understand what is said; where the knights exchange friendly hugs and grunts because they do not have a language in common.  And when your visor goes down, the only things you can see are medieval; the only sound you hear is your own breathing and the roars and shouts of an Italian medieval crowd.


This year the organizers made the event immersive which is reenactor cant for ‘no public, no cell phones, no nothing.’  This was interesting.  I particularly enjoy speaking to members of the public; on the other hand, this year, no matter where I looked, I was in the Middle Ages.  At one point, when I wanted a photo, I snuck behind a tree and lay full length to take it;  the one above was out my pavilion’s door… (actually my friend Maurizio’s pavilion, and a better host you cannot imagine) the others photos on this blog are borrowed from the official photographer, Nicola Maccagnani, who was virtually invisible.

Torneo 4

To me, the highest point of perfection is the dinners.  They are served in a beautiful (period) pavilion; the food is both delicious and medieval, and the furniture, serving wares, cups, utensils… are all excellent.  Everything is excellent; the conversation flows with the superb wine (Valpolicella Ripasso, by the way; wine of tournament fighters everywhere, with a little Amarone for the knights) and again, I am there. This year I listened to the Italian with a better understanding, and was lucky in having several companions who spoke English; we toasted and boasted and had a fine time.

Torneo 5

And as a final note; everyone always talks about the winners of tournaments, but for me, the winner this year was the woman who played a major role in preparing the feast; Sabina Cattazzo.  She was fantastic and deserves the public praise!

Torneo 6

Well it is over now, and it was superb, and the only thing wrong with it is that it is two years before we can all do it again.  But I have been reenacting for almost forty years now, and it has consistently provided a peak reenacting experience three times; other reenactors know what that means.  My hat is off to the organizers.  See you in 2018!

2 thoughts on “The Torneo del Cigno Bianco 2016

  1. It sounds like a fine time… Personally i prefer the immersion… though when it is job or when one trades a public element for the more private elements I understand.
    If there was a public element I always liked the evening and first thing in the morning… when no one was around..
    I alos like those events that went on a bit longer… normally we are visiting for s uch a short time, that the time is full with things…. SOmetimes it’s good to just do nothing… and just be….
    I see MIles is signing at FOrbidden Planet here in London on the 28th I think…

    Liked by 1 person

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