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Last sunday of October - Montalcino
11:00 AM PiazzaDel Popolo - Folk dance of “Trescone”
11:30 AM Parade towards Piazza del Popolo
12:00 AM “PiazzaDel Popolo” - Drawing of the Archers from the four city districts
4:00 PM Departure of the Historical Procession from “Piazza Cavour” to the Field of Draught
4:45 PM “ Provaccia/Competition” of the Archers on the football field
9:00 AM Folk dance of “Trescone” through the Town’s streets
11:00 AM Departure of the Historical Parade from “Piazza Cavour” to “Piazza del Popolo”
11:30 AM “PiazzaDel Popolo” - The Crier announces the Festival of the Thrush
11:45 AM Archers’ Blessing in front of St. Egidio’s church
12:00 AM Fortress- Archers' Greeting
3:15 PM Departure of the Historical Procession from “Piazza Cavour” to the Field of Draught
3:45 PM Archery Competition on the football Field
saturday and sunday From 9 Am to 8 pm - Giardini Impero- you can find the Quarters’ stands where it’s possible to eat the local products.
Since 1958, Montalcino has celebrated the Festival of the Thrush on the last sunday of October. This is similar to the Opening of the Hunting Season, a smaller festival celebrated on the second sunday of August. Twince a year the four quarters of Montalcino, Borghetto (white and red), Pianello (white and blue), Ruga (yellow and blue) and Travaglio (red and yellow), challenge each other in an archery competition that inflames the hearts of the whole community.
The Festival of the Thrush dates back to an old hunting tradition in this region. Even today, the fall migration of birds, especially of thrush, arriving from the north is more intense that elsewhere in these hills where olive trees alternate with wineyards and Mediterranean bush. In the Middle Ages, hunters and falconers would hunt in the woods of the county and come back with abundant prey. Feasts and banquets were then celebrated and everyone was admitted, noble and common people alike. The men would compete in jousts and tournaments to test theire bravery and skill, while the women showed their abilities by preparing the game and serving the plentiful local wine. Today, the festivities begin in the morning, when the boys and maidens of “Trescone” (a traditional dance) sing and dance to the music of the accordion inviting all to join in the celebration. They wear the traditional dress of the Tuscan countryside from the 1800s.
In the meantime, a procession of about 150 locals in historical costumes parades through the streets. The houses are adorned with the colored flags of the four quarter. The carefully handcrafted costumes were made by well-known costume designers and inspired by the clothing style of the XIV and XV century. The procession accompanied by historical trumpets and drums, pays tribute to the Lady of the Fortress. Surronded by her court, they waiting under the arches of the city hall for the knights, pageboys and archers to return from hunting. From a window under the municipal tower that overlooks the main square, the town crier officially announces the opening of the Festival of the Thrush and set free some of the birds in honour of the Lordship of the Fortress.
The procession moves on to Piazza Garibaldi, where the archers, the true heroes of the afternoon tournament, are blessed in front of the ancient church of Saint Egidio and then they arrive at the ancients fortress, where the four Quarter serve local food to everyone: pappardelle (broad pasta ribbons) in boar souce, pinci (hand made pasta noodles) in meat sauce, hearty bean soup and grilled meat all accompanied by the famous local wines. In the afternoon the procession starts again, moving towards the sports field behind the fortress where the archery competition takes place in the shadow of the former bastions of the rock. This is a moment of tension and hope; old rivalries rise up and all the attention focuses on the archers. The previous day, two archers' names are drawn from the lot to represent their quarter on the field. On the orders of the “Capitano del Campo” (Captain of the Field), the first four (one for each quarter) shoot five arrows each in four series of gradually increasing distance and point. At the end of the competition, the quarter with the most points wins. The victorius captain receives the silver arrow in the name of his quarter who also earns the right to sing hymns of victory and ridicule the losers.
The celebrations go on all winter and the losers have to bear jokes and jests from the winner.
The Festival of the Thrush is not only a festival rooted in history, but is also an expression of the people of Montalcino and their social community. Furthermore it is also a wonderful revival of the past and the ancient rivalry between Borghetto, Pianello, Ruga and Travaglio, the four villages which flourished on the slopes of the hill a thousand years ago which, together, gave birth to the city of Montalcino.