Umbria Blog | A wine barrel race in Montepulciano Tuscany

The Bravio delle Botti or the race of the barrels, is an annual race in Montepulciano Tuscany on the last Sunday of August. The Bravio used to be a horse race, but since Montepulciano is famous for its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in 1974 the idea was born to run with wine barrels instead. The different quarters of Montepulciano compete against each other to win the “Bravium”, a painted banner of the patron saint: San Giovanni Decollato.

The weight of one wine barrel is 80 kg. During the race the pushers, spingitori, push the heavy wooden wine barrels for 1.8 km uphill along the medieval streets of Montepulciano.

In the last week of the month of August many activities are held anticipating this event. Montepulciano is decorated with flags of the different quarters of town, the contrade. In the evenings the barrel pushers have their training in town and the tavernes of every contrade serve traditional dishes and local wine.

On Thursday evening is the costume parade in the historical centre, the “Corteo dei Ceri”, organised by all eight contrades. Flag wavers, drummers and participants in costume present life from a past long gone. The piazza is crowded with people watching the beautiful performance. This evening ends with exciting fireworks.


The Bravio of the Barrels, the run itself, is always on Sunday. The most important race during this medieval event. It is a moment of real competition between the eight contrade. The start of the race is at the Colonna del Marzocco in the lower art of town and the finish is on the Piazza Grande.

Before the race is the historical parade, starting at 3 p.m. The two runners of each district have a warming up while the parade departs from the Colonna del Marzocco to the Piazza Grande.


After the start signal the districts run away very fast with the heavy barrel. Many residents run along to encourage the spingitori to keep them going. On the huge display on the Piazza Grande you can follow the race every second. It is really exciting!

Voltaia won the race of the Bravio delle Botti 2017. They ran in 8.34 minutes. Al other districts arrived after 9 minutes with the last one being Cagnano with 9.48 minutes. You can just imagine the excitement of the public with such little difference between the participants.

The locals of the districts screamed and were full of emotions during the race. Even if their district didn’t win, they are proud of their pushers. The Bravio always ends in a good atmosphere. Everybody eats and drinks together to celebrate the Bravio.

Umbria Blog | visit La Pergola and eat like barbarians

Between Lake Trasimeno and Perugia are the holiday apartments of La Pergola. It has nine apartments and a large pool. At 4 km distance is Castel Rigone where you find a bakery, a bar and a grocery store.

Friends of mine were on a holiday at La Pergola in apartment Orvieto. They were five adults and a baby. Of course I already knew the apartments, but hanging out there as a tourist was my first experience. It really felt like a holiday! The views from the pool surprised me, so amazing. I loved it.

It was incredibly warm, so cooling down in the pool was almost a necessity that day. It was nice to meet other guests from Villa in Umbria around the pool. It is always pleasant to hear from guests how they spend their holidays and that they’re enjoying their time in Umbria. Also my Belgian friends were having a good time visiting many places like Assisi and Perugia, and also Cortona in Tuscany, all easy to reach from La Pergola.

In the evening we went to Castel Rigone for the local festival called “La Festa dei Barbari”, the festival of barbarians. A yearly sagra which takes place early August. Before dinner, we paid for our food and the wine was inclusive, how wonderful! Local barbarians served us free red and white wine at our table.

We drank wine as water and we ate as barbarians. We’ve tasted almost everything! After the food there was music, dance and theatre. A great experience when you’re on a holiday in Umbria.

Umbria Blog | Prehistory and the Abbey of Farneta

On a beautiful sunny day in April I participated in a guided walk in the area of the Abbey of Farneta. Farneta is a small hamlet in the valley next to the Trasimeno lake in Umbria, the Val di Chiana. Coming from the A1 or from Siena, driving towards Lake Trasimeno and Perugia many times I just drove by and never bothered to take the exit for “Abbazia di Farneta”. But now I did …

In a landscape of gentle hills, typical of the Val di Chiana, stands an old Romanesk Church. Once it was a Benedictine Abbey of which one can still see some remaining walls. For 65 years, from 1937 to 2002, the church belonging to the abbey has had the same pastor. Don Sante Felici was a very unique man who not only led his parish with much verve. He was also very interested in ancient times and made sure that the Abbey of Farneta was preserved from downfall.

The Etruscans left many remnants in this area and the pastor made sure that the cellars underneath the church were dug out. And he was right: nowadays one can visit the crypt underneath the altar dating back to pre-roman times. Legend goes that when digging they found enormous amounts of human skeletons and living snakes; an image of Dante’s inferno.

Our walk continued from the Abbey to the former school building of Farneta where to my surprise a small paleontology museum is made with … yes … prehistoric fossils, all found near Farneta! Who would have thought: a million years ago the Val di Chiana valley was a savannah where elephants, hyenas and rhinoceros lived. Even longer ago, the whole environment was a sea. In the museum you can see many fossil shells, but also bones of prehistoric elephants, fossilized feces of hyenas and more.

But why in Farneta? That certainly involves the pastor – through the stories of our guide I imagine a kind of Don Camillo. In the 1950s and 1960s the construction of the A1 took place for which a lot of sand was needed. In later years the same happened again with the construction of the highway Siena-Perugia. In the area one excavated a lot of ground for the construction of these new roads.

Don Sante made arrangements with the workmen: they had to warn him if they found bones or other valuable relics. In this way, even two whole skeletons of prehistoric elephants were found, which are now in the paleontological museum of Florence. To this day farmers in the area or workmen during new construction projects find prehistoric bones or Etruscan remains.

It is thanks to the erudite priest Don Sante that many relics found around Farneta can be seen today. His heritage is now managed by a voluntary organization.

Our guide was Laura Gremoli. If you would like more information about the Etruscans and the history around the Val di Chiana, then let yourself be guided by Laura. She has an incredible knowledge and is a passionate story teller. I already experienced this at a guided tour about Etruscans at the Maec museum of Cortona. She is an inexhaustible source of information. You can call her on + 39 3494949604, or email info@cortonatouristguide.com. She speaks English.