Cultural Italy Blog: Art, Coffee & Love

Il Bravio delle Botti


In every little town or village of Italy you’ll happen to be this year, you may find yourself part of a lucky audience about to witness the celebration of some unique tradition, whose origins go way back in time, and are  reminiscent of a past that Italy still wants to celebrate and keep alive.

When the weather gets better, so from spring till late fall, almost anywhere, you’ll happily stumble in a festival; this particularly happens in small places, where it‘s easier for the community to get together, and each citizen prides themselves to bringing to life an historical event with the re-enactment of it.

Just like in the ancient times, these festival start off with a parade, where everyone is dressed in historical costumes, culmitates with a contest and finishes with an final awards ceremony  involving music, dances and – of course -food. 

Most of them are genuinely unique; think of Pistoia celebrating the Giostra dell’Orso, (the Joust of the Bear), where men dressed us as knights must hit two stylized bears with their spears to the rhythm of the drum. Or Arezzo, which hosts the Giostra del Saracino (Joust of the Saracen), a tournament in which eight costumed knights charge towards a wooden representation of the Saracen, aiming to arrive at the Saracen’s shield with lances. The winner receives a golden lance.

And yes, since we’re talking about Tuscany, how can we not mention the Bravìo delle Botti in Montepulciano. In an atmosphere full of charm and magic, this competition takes place every year in August (this year it will be on August 31st). 
Botti means barrels and “Bravìo” comes from the Latin “Bravium”, and refers to a painted cloth with the image of the patron saint of Montepulciano, St. John the Beheaded. 

Like other festivals, this one too, involves a physical challenge. Two representatives spingitori (literally pushers) of each contrada (district) must push and roll a huge wooden wine barrel of about 40 pounds through the historical center, mounting up the curving streets, till they get to the finish line by the beautiful Cathedral. Along the way, all the other residents scream and run alongside each team. The winners will receive the “bravio”. 

Back in 1400’ The “Bravium” was a scarlet cloth of the “value of at least thirty gold florins,” as described in the City Charter of 1372.

In those days the representative of each district would compete on horseback! This tradition was lost in the seventeenth century, when it was abolished because considered too disruptive. Only in more recent times the race has been transformed in a competition with barrels as an excellent advertisement – if ever needed – for the fine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. 

Il Bravio delle Botti represents one more reason to visit one of the most beautiful art cities of Tuscany, savour the local cuisine and the great wine of Montepulciano, all while enjoying a special event for the locals with the locals. Not to mention, that on this occasion the town itself is even more enchanting, all dolled up with with flags and decorations of each contrada. The costume parade, slowly marching down the streets of the historical center will take you back in time, with knights and noble ladies proudly showing in their incredible costumes.

Come and enjoy this magical and time-suspended atmosphere, a truly unique but possible experience, here in Italy. 

Nicoletta Lucia Paganucci