Posted by: debrakolkka | November 3, 2011

Montalcino’s big day

As I walked up the hill on Sunday morning for the main event of the Sagra del Tordo I came across the procession heading towards Piazza Popolo to greet the Lady of the Fortress.

the start of the parade

It seems the whole town was on the move.

the dancers were back

there were children bearing gifts

a handsome couple

boys in red


and horns

an important looking gentleman

people carrying picks and a banner

All these people were heading towards the Lady of the Fortress and her entourage.

the Lady of the Fortress

the town crier arrived on his horse and the Lordship arrived to excort his Lady

the Lady and Lordship

Then everybody moved off towards the church for the archers to be blessed.

those crossbows look dangerous

the gifts go too

more fierce weapons

at the church

all done

Then everybody was off the the fortress for the next part of the ceremony.

up the hill to the fortress

Like the day before, the sun was shining and it as a beautiful day. Huge crowds gathered in the grounds of the fortress,and the next stage of the event was played out.

the town crier made his announcements

to the crowds and the court below

the horns played from above

and the other horns

the hunting dogs were there

and hunters with their nets

while the members of the court looked on

it proved to be a bit tiring for some

Once the speeches were made and essential things said and done, the court moved off.


The Lord and Lady move off and the rest follow.


Lunch was next. Just outside the fortress grounds the food stands were set up. Each quartiere offered its own specialities.


Everything looked delicious, including these roasting chickens.



Of course we had lunch in the Pianello area.


We ate delicious gnocchi, polenta with cingiale, porchetta and the most delicious sausages. It was worth coming for the food alone. Then it was time for a rest before the main archery competition. We elected to miss the procession to the sports ground in order to get a good seat in the stand.
Eventually the parade filed in and the competition got underway.







The court takes its place.


Supporters stand by.


The band begins to play.


All eyes are on the archers and the competition begins.



Arrows are retrieved, the shots discussed at length and it starts again.






Finally the last arrows are sent towards the targets.


And Pianello has won the competition. This has only happened a couple of times in the last 20 years, so the supporters are very pleased. The victorious captain receives the silver arrow in the name of his quartiere.


The crowd goes wild and the players hug each other and people swarm onto the field.





Then everyone heads back into the Piazza Popolo for more celebrations.



The happy archers go off to get ready for the evening celebrations.


Celebrations go long into the night. The winning team earns the right to sing hymns of victory and to ridicule the losers. This can go on for the entire year, until the next competition.


Overnight all the flags from the losing areas will be removed and only the flags of the winning quartiere are allowed to remain on display.
We felt very privileged to be part of the Sagra del Tordo. It was fun to be on the side of the winning team, even though we had nothing to do with the win. I’ll have to go back next year to cheer for Pianello.
What we loved most of all about this festival was that the whole town was involved. Babies were dressed in quartiere colours, toddlers were dancing and playing drums, young children were involved happily in the event and everyone just had a great time. Nobody was unruly or bad spirited. There should be more of this.




  1. Amazing! What a superb spectacle.

    • It was spectacular. I wish we had something like that here in BdL.

  2. How great to see the white oxen… Memories of Italy of over forty years ago!! Thank you for the many beautiful photographs, because of them I feel as though I also attended the event.

    • The whole weekend was amazing. This is the best festival I have attended in Italy.

  3. One word: Wow.

    • Those costumes were incredible in their detail. The fabrics were beautiful and they were worn with pride.

  4. Love Montalcino, Love this post, Love all the goings on in Italy! How wonderful. All those costumes too…..lovely to see how they all make an effort and so different to what we see in Australia. I loved this post Deb!


    • Perhaps you could come next year.

  5. I agree with you, we should have something similar in Bagni di Lucca and I am sure that there would be similar events, which took place in the past and are now forgotten, which could be brought back to life. I will start investigating, but I already know of a big banquet which was offered to the people of Bagni (Corsena, then) by French philosopher Michel de Montaigne to thank the inhabitants for taking good care of him while he was taking a cure there. This was back in the 16th Century…..
    We have the “balestrieri”, something nice could be organised.

    • I like the sound of the banquet.

  6. What a spectacular show! I am very impressed with the costumes, so beautifully made and in authentic detail, and the way the participants carried themselves all the way through – it was almost out of a picture book I read about the “Pied Piper” as a child. Even though the piper story was German, the costumes in the book looked very similar to the Italian clothes. I expected the Town Crier to yell from the top of his lungs; so, seeing him with a microphone didn’t seem to fit the Medieval scene. You were fortunate to capture so many beautiful pictures right throughout the whole show; also love the way you took us with you on your journey from start to end. A very pleasurable blog! I like Mulino’s idea of doing a banquet for Bagni di Lucca. Count me in for that one!

    • We will all line up for the banquet.

  7. Amazing photos, Deb. What fun!

    • It was a great weekend.

  8. What an event!

  9. Thank you.

  10. This is the sort of thing you just don’t get in Australia – how wonderful!

    • The whole spectacle was wonderful. The costumes were beautiful and worn with pride.

  11. What a huge event! It is so elaborate, I bet people really look forward to this! 🙂

    • The whole town was packed for the weekend. It was mostly Italians, I didn’t see too many foreigners. I guess you would have to be lucky to be around at the right time.

  12. We saw the archers but missed the parade, aren’t the costumes beautiful and well looked after. What wonderful red and beige tights, maybe Mary D should get a pair.
    You obtained shots worthy of publishing further.

    • I took enough photos to fill a large book. I had trouble deciding which ones to use. There was so much to see.

  13. How did you get to be a part of the “pianello”? Did you know people in the Montecino?

    • My Australian friends have a house in Pianello and are members of the quartiere. I did mention it in the first post on Montalcino.

  14. […] here for more on Montalcino and here annd here for the wonderful archery competition held as part of the Festival of the Thrush. […]

  15. […] and the spectacle of this were wonderful. It was great to see the whole town involved. Click here to see the costumes and the archery competition. Of course there was much more. Take a look in the […]

  16. […] loved these red shoes at the Sagra del Tordo in […]

  17. […] Montalcino is a famous wine town. Like many Tuscan towns it sits prettily on a hill with stunning views over the surrounding countryside. A couple of years ago I went for the weekend to be part of the Sagra del Tordo, and incredible festival where the whole town is involved in an archery competition. Everybody dresses up in wonderful costumes, feasts on delicious food and watches the exciting competition. […]

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