Rolling the Barrels in Italy

Published Date Author: , September 1st, 2014

Bravio delle Botti - Dolly GoolsbyBuongiorno, tutti,

Yes, we returned to Montepulciano for the barrel-rolling competition, called the Bravio delle Botti. We arrived on Friday afternoon, and the festivities were well under way by then. On Thursday, they had had an evening parade, by candlelight, with people in medieval costume from all 8 contrade, entertainment in the Piazza Grande, and fireworks.

Well, yes, we missed that, but on Saturday each contrada had a parade of their young people, so we got to see that.

Of course, in the evening there was live music in many different venues. All contrade had their own areas where they were cooking and serving food and drink. It was hard for me to imagine even eating a bistecca Fiorentina at any time, but I know I wouldn’t do that at 10:00 at night.

All of this area is heavy on meats: beef from the Chianini cattle, only found in Tuscany, wild boar stews and ragu (cinghiale), rabbit, domestic pork and lamb, and sausages, too, from the cinghaile and pork. Thankfully, for some of us who want more veggies in our meals, it is porcini season here. Mmmm..just the aroma of porcini mushrooms being sauteed in olive oil, served over pasta, makes my mouth water. Also, many grilled local vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, fennel, are available. Salads with fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella are wonderful.

On Sunday, the entire day had something going on leading up to the grand finale, the actual barrel race. At 10:00 a.m. there was a parade of the royalty and dignitaries of each contrada, ending at Piazza Grande. All of these people went through large double doors into the city hall. Then there was a lottery which determined starting position for the barrel rolling competition. (Think “pole position” at Indianapolis.).

The trumpeters opened some windows on the top floor of that building, played a fanfare, then a flag appeared, announcing the first position.

Next, the barrel rollers from that first contrada rolled their brand new barrel out onto the steps of the cathedral. The blacksmith then measured the barrel with calipers, tapped in any loose nails, and branded the barrel with his stamp. While all this was going on, the drummers and flag throwers from the contrada were keeping the audience entertained.

This procedure continued until all 8 contrade had their positions announced, barrels were branded. Then the priest and a cardinal gave a short blessing ceremony and all the nobility, the barrel rollers, the flag throwers and drummers entered the church for a Mass.

Eventually, it came time for the actual barrel racing. It was impossible to get a good photo, so this is the best I could do. They were really moving fast, up the Corso, through some side streets, passing through each of the 8 contrade, from the bottom of the hill up to Piazza Grande.

Eventually, the contrada Voltaio won. They had gotten the first position, and are also return winners, having own last year.

All in all, it was a fun filled weekend. We got to meet again some of our friends from school, as well as some of the instructors. We also met the lady and her husband, from whom we had rented our apartment while going to school. The town is filled with lovely people like them.

I am very much in love with Montepulciano. I hope I get to return again before too long.

I trust you will enjoy my synopsis of a wonderful cultural experience.
(I have included so many pictures, it will be interesting to see if they all come through.)

Ciao for now,

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Purple Roofs | Eastern Tuscany Gay Travel Resources

Comments reader  No Responses

Rolling the Barrels in Italy - Gravatar Rolling the Barrels in Italy said on September 1, 2014, 11:55 am:

[…] By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Purple Roofs | Eastern Tuscany Gay Travel Resources […]

Leave Your Comment  Leave a comment

All fields marked with "*" are required.