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[The race] It is the last Sunday of Augustn of the "Bravžo delle Botti" takes place. The original challenge between the eight Contradas (divisions) of Montepulciano who compete for a painted cloth banner by rolling barrels which weigh 80 kilos in an uphill race lasting around 1800 metres along the main street of the town. The barrels are rolled by two athletes called "spingitori" whilst the course of the race winds through the streets of the townis historical centre until it reaches the churchyard of the Duomo in Piazza Grande. The word "Bravžo" derives from the Vernacular language "Bravium" and is awarded to the winning Contrada, in the form of the Panno a beautifully painted banner bearing the image of the Patron Saint of the town San Giovanni Decollato, in honour of whom the Bravžo delle Botti takes place. The event is linked to a chapter of local history directly dating back to 1373 the year in which the reform of the Municipal Statute dedicated the entire chapter 30 to the arrangements of the Palio. It appears as its own institution in honour of the Patron of Montepulciano (29th August), perpetual and happy memory of the popular regime.

The "Bravium" must be of scarlet cloth worth at least 30 gold Fiorini and equestrian, and anyone can send his horse to enter the race. Concentrating on the course of the race it follows on: the race will run each year on the named day along the straight road which comes from the Villa di Gracciano Vecchio. The race will start on the corner or at the crossroads with the road which leads to Villa della Strada and towards the Contrada delle Corolle. The race will continue up the road and straight across the gate of Gracciano in the direction of Cavina, and then up to Via Voltaia and Cagnano in the direction of Cavina, and then up to Via Voltaia and Cagnano in the direction of the Santa Maria church. From here it will follow the straight road of Collazzi and Coste entering enter the small gate under the house of Stefano and Jacobo heading for the honourable street of the Mercanzia. The race will come to an end in the Piazza on the corner of the Pieve, where fish is sold, in that place, at that hour which to the Priors seems most suitable, on that day one places the above mentioned Bravžo [Rif. del 1373, cap IIIc227].

The Bravžo was disputed in a horse race until the 17th Century and then became abolished most probably for reasons of public order.
The recent history of the Bravžo began in 1974 when a parish priest Don Marcello Del Balio, had the original idea of swapping the old horse race for a barrel race. The idea besides ingenious couldnit have been more successful. The barrels therefore are an important element for the economy of Montepulciano, because thanks to them it produces the famous "Vino Nobile di Montepulciano".

[The Events] It is the last Sunday of August on which the Bravžo is contested. In the morning at 9.00 in Piazza Grande the important and suggestive ceremonies are carried out. These are the draw of the line up of the Contrade, branding of the barrels, flag throwing, consignment of the "Panno del Bravžo" on behalf of the Council to the Magistrate of the Contrade, and the offering of the votive candles to San Giovanni in the cathedral. In the afternoon at 16.00 the procession consisting of more than 3000 participants commences through the historic centre. Finally at 19.00 after the signal given by the strokes from the bells of the town hall, the barrels begin to roll on the stone leaving from Marzocco's column. After a few minutes the Bravžo will come a conclusion, only one Contrada will display disappointment and think of the revenge without ill feeling and with respect for the winner. A story which has repeated itself for over 600 years. The whole week prior to the main event is filled with important appointments and events: official trials of the "spingitori" for each of the Contrada; each evening each of the Contrade will open ready to welcome you with celebrations, dinners, games, music and... wine and goodwill

[The Contrade] The Contrade were mentioned for the first time before the Statute of 1373, in the IV book of the Mayor, and then again during the reform of the Statute in 1373. Following this in a register of Lira in 1407 and other registers estimated around 1400 and 1500. Each time the same names are mentioned which are the ones we are left with today, Cagnano, Collazzi, Coste, Gracciano, Poggiolo, San Donato, Talosa, Voltaia.

By the 1300's the eight Contrade had already been re-grouped into divisions. S.Maria: White colours with a mystic rose as their coat of arms, consisting of the Cagnano, Collazzi and S.Donato Contrade.
S.Francesco: Green colours with a thistle as their coat of arms, consisting of the Coste, Talosa and Voltaia Contrade.
S.Agostino: Red colours with mitre and shepherd as their coat of arms, consisting of the Gracciano and Poggiolo Contrade.

Cagnano: Green and blue colours with suckling she-dog as the coat of arms. Collazzi: Yellow and green colours, with whale riding the waves as the coat of arms. Coste: Yellow and blue colours with six oblique bands as the coat of arms. Gracciano: Green and black colours with a lion ruling a golden field as the coat of arms. Poggiolo: White and blue colours with three hillocks as the coat of arms. San Donato: White and red colours with the bearings of Episcopal emblems as the coat of arms. Talosa: Yellow and red colours with three roses as the coat of arms. Voltaia: Red and black colours with a stylised vault on a hooked shield as the coat of arms.






San Donato



Each Contrada had its "Societas" and a named leader or "Rector", and could administrate their own affairs independently. The Rectors represented the Contrada particularly on feast days such as San Giovanni held on 29th August. On this occasion they used to gather at the Pieve di Santa Maria (almost the same place where today the townis Cathedral is erected.) with at least ten men who would each give the Saint a candle weighing 15lb (10 lb for the Collazzi and Coste Contrade). For the feast day of S.Agnese on May 1st, they used to make their way to the monastery of Santa Maria Novella instead located outside the gate of Gracciano (today the S. Agnese church) to give the Saint a candle of adequate size.

During these two important festivals for the community of Montepulciano, helpless was the participation of the population and complete the formation of the town's management, from the gonfaloniers, to the numerous notables, the Mayor, the authorities, the judge, the councillors, the official foreigners and the garrison of the town.

The history behind the Contrade of Montepulciano allows us not just to gain knowledge of the life of the town during that period but also of its urban settlements and developments. The oldest Contrade are definitely those of the "Sasso" - rock that are located at the highest part of the town. This was where the earliest forms of settlement began. These included the Contrade of San Donato, Talosa and perhaps also Poggiolo. Collazzi, Coste, Cagnano, Voltaia and Gracciano are certainly the most recent Contrade. Until 1281 they were considered "Borghi" - hamlets (agglomerated outside of the town) they became Contrade around the year 1300. From the ancient history of the Contrade of Montepulciano documented by the council statutes during that period, kept in the historic archives of the Montepulciano town hall, has maintained until today the same nomenclature, colours, coats of arms, urban territories, and above all the same ceremonial parade.

from our archive
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Magistrato delle Contrade
Pro loco Montepulciano


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