Sagra del tordo (Thrush Festival)

 

The most important thing to keep in mind should you want to visit the small village of Montalcino during its Thrush Festival is to arrive very, very early or to be ready to take a serious hike. Even if Montalcino is always bustling with pilgrims to the sites of beloved monk and saint Padre Pio, the festival dwarfes all the normal crowds. This event is a sort of reenactment of the Medieval rites for the migrating season of thrushes, which flew overhead and made for abundant prey to the skillful archers of the village. Today the roasted thrushes you are bound to eat during the festival come from modern farms, yet they are just as tasty.

The festival follows a rather standard format for this kind of events. Celebrations and preparations take up the whole first day, while on the second a contest is held. In this case it is an archery tournament between four city districts, each of which elects two master archers to represent them. The district that scores the highest after two rounds of five shots each is the winner, taking home a silver arrow as a prize.

Around this contest a number of other interesting activities have sprung up. The most spectacular is probably the falconry demonstration, but equally fun is the dancing of the Trescone ensemble. Formed in 1942 when a movie production needed some local dancers to appear in a historical flick, it lived on to further study medieval dances and culture and today it represents one of the very few opportunities to watch how our ancestors had fun. And talking about legacy, don’t miss the parade of 150 historical costumes from the 1300s – definitely more colorful and entertaining than today’s catwalk shows.