On the second Sunday of August, Montalcino, famous worldwide for its Brunello, but also for its millennial history and culture, takes a step back in time and relives its important Medieval era. The occasion is the Opening of the Hunting Season Tournament, during which the town’s four Quarters (Borghetto, Pianello, Ruga and Travaglio) revive cultural, social and recreational events, but also sometimes contrasting sentiments of belonging, competition and rivalry.
The highlight of the Festival is on 11 August, when the Historical Cortège and the Archery Tournament take place. Beginning at 5.15pm, more than 150 characters in 14th and 15th century costumes inspired by Montalcino’s era of greatest splendour (authentic down to the last detail, designed by costume historians and made by skilled seamstresses), will parade through the streets of the town. These include the Gonfaloniere, the town’s standard bearer, and also the Banditore, the town crier, whose job it was to make public announcements in the streets, the Lords of the Fortress, the feudal lord and his chatelaine, with their court of ladies and knights, and characters of the Quarters. The parade is accompanied by the rhythmic sound of drums and trumpets, and marked by the tolling of the Great Bell of the old Town Hall.
The Historical Cortège ends at the sports field, transformed into an Archery Field for the occasion, where the rivalry between Quarters will be unleashed in the Archery Tournament (at 6.30pm). From this moment on, the Festival is no longer just an entertaining re-enactment of the past, but an event keenly felt by the town and the inhabitants of the quarters, an evocation of the intense rivalry between Borghetto, Pianello, Ruga and Travaglio. Archers compete over increasing distances (from 25 to 45 metres, with targets in the shape of wild boar) for supremacy over the town. The winners are awarded the Montalcino gold medal and a work of art, created each year by a different artist, which will be presented on 9 August at 7.00pm under the Loggia of the Old Town Hall. Of course, Lady Luck will also play her part when a draw held at 12.00 noon on 10 August in Piazza del Popolo will proclaim the pair of archers who will represent each Quarter.
The Opening of the Hunting Season Tournament also has a twin festival, the Thrush Fest, in October. This event, eagerly awaited every year by the inhabitants of Montalcino, given city status by Pope Pius II, traces its origins to the times between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when noble families delighted in festive banquets with jousts and tournaments in which both nobles and ordinary townsfolk took part.