Montalcino – The Sagra – Events of Tuscany

The Sagra del Tordo – Montalcino

Montalcino relives the Middle Ages with the Sagra in August and on the last weekend in October every year.
A celebration with a procession of the fourteenth century, banquets and food and wine stalls culminating in a spectacular competition between the finest archers of the four districts (quartiere) of the city.
The four quartiere are Borghetto, Pianello, Ruga and Travaglio.
The Sagra del Tordo (Festival of the thrush) celebrates the culmination of the migratory season of birds particularly the thrush which were caught for food by hunters and falconers.
It begins on Saturday morning with the dance “Trescone” costumes typical of the Tuscan countryside in the 19th century. The dance is in the historic centre of Montalcino.
Dancing in the square on Saturday
Two of the dancers
Following the dance a draw takes place for the selection of archers to compete in the ultimate competion. Each district submits three names but only two are drawn to compete. So in fact the best archer may not even get selected.
The draw.
Anxiously waiting the draw result.
On Saturday afternoon the archers selected participate in the “provaccia” or a practice session with the winning team being given no. 1 shooting range in the final and able to nominate the final shoot distance. Borghetto narrowly won that right.
Saturday evening is cena (dinner) in each quartiere
Here is the dinner in Pianello. Very proud and emotional with strong and ofter vocal support for the archers and the quartiere.
Next day, again after wonderful processions and pagentry, the event culminates in an amazing archery competition. The shooting range is built in the shadow of the rampants of the fortress.
The two archers in each team are subject to time constraints and must shoot in a limited amount of time once the signal is given. The target is a wood target depicting a wild boar.
The fans rush to their victorious archers with the losing archers gracefully leaving the arena.
 The winning quartiere celebrates throughout the night. Only their flags are allowed to be flown in the town.
 So what a wonderful event. The archery competition is just breathtaking.
Below are some additional scenes from the Sagra.
A young Ruga supporter with dad
The decorative costumes at the Sagra
The Pianello archers with their team captain/coach in the centre. When I asked how much they practice the comment was “they are born into it…they start as children”

La Foce – Tuscan garden paradise

Originally built in the 15th century as an Inn for pilgrims and merchants travelling the historical Via Francigena towards Rome. “Foce” means “opening” or “meeting place”

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In 1924 La Foce was bought by Antonio and Iris Origo who engaged the English architect Cecil Pinsent to extend the buildings and develop the garden.

Iris was of Anglo-American descent and was brought up in Florence.

The gardens are absolutely superb growing gradually from 1924 to this day. Today the estate is owned by the daughters of Antonio and Iris who continue the tradition. Here are just some of the scenes of the garden

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This is well worth a visit. In summer it is open on Wednesdays from 3pm every hour until 7pm and the first weekend of the month. At Euro 10 this is a real bargain.

And lunch beforehand at Doppo lavoro, an estate restaurant is highly recommended

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La Foce

53042 Chianciano Terme (Siena)

tel: +39 057869101


Verona – One of Italy’s beautiful cities

Verona is certainly a magical city with many fine architectural buildings and beautiful piazzas.

“Children” playing in Mantova (near Verona) at the Palazzo Te. Mantova is the city that Romeo was banished to.
The old Roman wall encircling Verona.
The beautiful main square of Verona
One of many classical buildings in Verona
Magistrates office where court was held in Verona
Another Piazza with a statue of Dante who spent considerable time in Verona
The old Roman bridge spanning the river Adige in Verona.
The Roman Coloseum in Verona where open air operas are held
The Allegrini wine estate just outside Verona
One of the rooms of the estate

Lipari – Aeolian Islands

Lipari is an island just off the north coast of Sicily. It is part of the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago that straddles the gap between Vesuvius and Etna. It is the largest of the Aeolian Islands with a population of just over 10,000 people. Other islands are Salina, Filicudi, Vulcano (from which the name Volcano was derived), Stromboli, Panarea and Alicudi. Stromboli has one of only three active volcanoes in Italy and last erupted in 2009.
The main town of Lipari is…..Lipari
Lipari is a rustic seaside town, heavily reliant on tourism.
This area is one of the main archaeological sites in Lipari, positioned on a rocky outcrop overlooking the town.
Lipari has two main harbours. This one on the north side of the town in front of Piazza Sant’Onofrio houses more of the pleasure craft in Lipari. The southern harbour takes all of the large ferries.
One of the main churches in Lipari, the Basilica of St. Bartholomew built inside the fortifications. St Bartholomew’s remains were kept here between 600-800 AD. The fortifications which were built on a rocky outcrop in 1556 under the direction of Charles V of Spain now includes the wonderful Aeolian museum of Lipari. This museum houses many fine pieces from the various occupations of Lipari. This fortified area high above the main town was a safe haven for the populace of the town in the event of raids by foreign enemy.
The small boat harbour and Piazza Sant’Onofrio
with the locals just relaxing and enjoying a few rays of sun as it rained every day in Lipari while we were there.
One local relaxing by the water
Another two locals on their front door step.
The island of Lipari is about 40 square kilometres is was created by a succession of volcanic eruptions around 10,000 BC. As a result of its volcanic origins, the island is covered with pumice and obsidian.
Pumice cliffs on north east of Island.
Porticello on the north east coast.
Coastal view looking toward the island of Vulcano

It is believed Lipari was inhabited from around 5,000 years BC. It was colonised by the Greeks in 580BC who successfully fought the Etruscans for control. The Romans took over around 250 BC and remained that way until the 9th century when the Arabs took control. The Normans conquered the Arabs in the 11th century and repopulated Lipari. Then followed various battles and occupations by the Spanish,  Austrians, French amongst others before it returned to Italian rule.

The Terme di San Calogero on the west coast of Lipari Island dates back over 3,500 years. The water that flows is known for its therapeutic properties and is high in carbon dioxide, sodium chloride and magnesium and comes out of the rock at 40 degrees centigrade!  Amazing!


Inside “the sauna” at
Terme di San Calogero. This sauna is a domed circular stone structure and still remains hot even though access to the outside is open.
Hot mineral water flowing into “the sauna” at 40 degrees plus
The water flowing into these baths at around 40 degrees provided wonderful therapeutic baths.
View looking toward the town of Lipari from the fortress
The old monastery adjoining the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew
Beautiful azzure sea
Porticello on the north coast
Lipari town dominated by the fortress. During fascism Lipari Island was a destination for the confinement of members of the political opposition.
Lipari in the foreground and the island of Vulcano behind