Battle of the barrels competition in Montepulciano, Tuscany

The fields are turning golden brown from the emerald inexperienced of spring. The rolling hills of Tuscany shimmer from the warmth of the summer time solar. That is August when many Italians take their vacation, and it’s the time of festivals in Tuscany.


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Cignella

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Ferragosto, the Evening of Saint Lorenzo & The Bravio

There may be the Ferragosto, the Evening of Saint Lorenzo, the well-known Palio of Sienna and a lesser identified however extremely entertaining weeklong Renaissance type celebration within the hilltop village of Montepulciano referred to as the Bravio delle Botti.

The competition takes place on the final week of August alongside the primary streets of the city. It’s an authentic problem between the eight Contradas, neighbourhoods, of the village that compete for a painted material banner.

Rolling the barrel

The Bravio is the precise identify of the superbly painted banner bearing the picture of the Patron Saint of the city, Saint Giovanni. Two athletes from every neighbourhood, referred to as Spingitori, roll a 160lb empty wine barrel in an uphill race for over a mile alongside the streets of the city till they attain the entrance of the Cathedral within the Grand Plaza.

Battle of the barrels

Battle of the barrels (c) Jim Chamberlain

This a grueling bodily demanding exertion that may be full of unusual drama. Barrels flip sidewise or crash into one another throwing the athletes into irritating efforts to maintain from falling behind the leaders.

Montepulciano celebrates for every week previous to the race. Every Contrada will parade by means of the primary sq.. Its residents wearing Renaissance clothes within the colors of their district.

Noblemen and Bravio

Noblemen and Bravio (c) Jim Chamberlain

Communal dinners are held within the neighbourhoods and the entire village is embellished within the vibrant flags of the eight districts. Heralds trumpet out every parade from the home windows of the medieval city corridor with its crenellations and tall tower referred to as the Palazzo Comunale whose central tower dates again to the 16th century and reminds you of  the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

Streets of Montapulciano

Streets of Montapulciano (c) Jim Chamberlain

I used to be lucky to witness the parade of 1 Contrada. The entire city dressed of their finery sat within the stands across the sq. and watched the representatives of the Contrada Talosa in gold and purple costumes, with massive flags and drummers march into the sq..

The flag bearers carried out tough flag waving and tossing of their massive banners into the air and catching them earlier than they hit the bottom to beat of their drummers.

Flag Waver

Flag Waver (c) Jim Chamberlain

Later within the day, I noticed the city magistrates parade the Bravio by means of the sq. dressed of their medieval finery with the image of the city, a Griffin, on their costumes. A spectacle to remind one of many pageantries of the Renaissance.

The competition began again in 1373 as a horse race between the areas like Sienna’s, race across the El Campo. Immediately’s names of the Contradas are the identical which have at all times been. They’re the Cagnano, Collazzi, Coste, Gracciano, Poggiolo, San Donato, Talosa, and Voltaia. They keep the identical colors, coat of arms and ceremonial parades as they’ve for hundreds of years.

The horse race for the Bravio continued till the 17th century when it was stopped to keep up public order. The current historical past of the Bravio started in 1974 when a neighborhood priest had the steered the swapping of the previous horse race for a barrel race. The oak barrels are an necessary image of Montepulciano. Solely right here is the well-known wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, aged in them.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wine should come from vineyards on the hills which encompass Montepulciano. The important thing grape selection grown right here is Sangiovese. Sangiovese grapes should make up at the very least 60–80 % of the ultimate wine. The growing old interval for any Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a minimal of 24 months (36 months for the Riserva wines), of which at the very least 12 months have to be spent in oak barrels. Native winemakers have lengthy used massive Italian botti.

The bigger barrels present much less oak flavour within the completed wine. Oak barrels are used right here not a lot for his or her flavour as for the sluggish, managed ageing they supply. This custom has now turn into enshrined within the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOC legal guidelines.

Whereas visiting Montepulciano ensure that to go to the Ricci household vineyard, The Cantina di Ricci.  It’s situated simply off town heart and it is without doubt one of the finest vineyard excursions you’ll ever take.

Etruscan Cave

Etruscan Cave (c) Jim Chamberlain

You meet your information in a big out of doors patio with views of the Tuscan countryside and the church of San Biagio.  The tour takes you down an equestrian brick staircase a number of flooring the place you will notice large black wine barrels of Slavonian oak, picket wine presses, and a golden cave the place the Etruscans saved their wine earlier than the time of Christ.  The cellar is roofed by a monumental succession of arches and sustained by large pillars which collectively jogged my memory of a Cathedral. This tour finishes with a tasting of three vintages of the Vino Nobile with appetizers.  The wine is full bodied, elegant, and a deep purple.  It has been heralded as top-of-the-line wines produced in Tuscany.

Festivities previous to the competition

Your complete week previous to the race is stuffed with necessary occasions. Every night would be the official trial of the “Spingitori” to check their worthiness to compete within the race. Every Contrada can be open to welcome anybody who needs to cease by with meals, video games, music, and wine!

People of Montepulciano

Individuals of Montepulciano (c) Jim Chamberlain

On the final Sunday in August at three.00 PM, the procession, consisting of greater than 300 partici-pants, commences by means of the historic village.  Lastly, the sign is given by the ringing of the city corridor bells at 7 P.M. The barrels start to roll on the stones, leaving from the Marzocco’s column.

The athletes push their barrels with skilled palms up the slender steep lanes. Residents and guests alike crowd slender doorways as the massive barrels are rolled by.  Everyone seems to be cheering for his or her favorites because the athletes compete for the lead.  Just one Contrada will be capable of rejoice the victory and declare the Bravio.   The opposite Contradas can be disenchanted however will applaud the winner. A narrative that’s until repeating itself after 600 years.

This yr the staff of the Poggiolo Contrada of their colors of Blue and White gained the race and was proudly handed the Bravio.

Whereas the horse race of Sienna is extra well-known, the battle of the barrels in Montepulciano is a Tuscan competition worthy of your time to go to.  The wine right here is best than in Sienna too.


Disclaimer: this text is sponsored by Cignella


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