Many people know about the Contradas of Siena that compete every year in the Palios of June and August. On a much smaller scale, but with the same effect of adding vibrancy to the life of Montisi, which other villages envy, we have four Contradas.
Every August they compete in a jousting competition (la Giostra) and every contradaiolo (contrada member) becomes passionate about his or her allegiance.
Equally important for the life of the village are the dinners laid on by the Contradas throughout the year. There are many wonderful reasons to host a dinner. Whether we are celebrating the chestnut season in Castello with the Scastagnata in October, the opening of the hunting season in San Martino with the Cena dei Cacciatori, a beer festival in La Torre, or kicking off the summer with the Goose Dinner, la Cena dell’Ocio, in Piazza in July, everyone is invited, our visitors as well as the villagers and it is always great fun. For the Goose Dinner more than twenty-five geese are roasted in the ovens of the village bakery! Each Contrada has its own kitchen and expert cooks who give their time and effort on a wholly voluntary basis think nothing of organising a dinner for three hundred people!
The evening before our most important festival, the Giostra di Simone in August, each Contrada holds a street dinner, and if you walk through the village you will find tables laid outside each headquarters and up to a thousand people propitiating the gods with good food and local red wine. Visitors and foreigners are always made welcome: even to the extent of sometimes being invited to take part in the medieval processions – if the costume happens to fit.
One week later, the winning Contrada will lay on a lavish Victory dinner, with music and dancing: one memorable year the entertainment included a belly dancer and a Full Monty performance.
Montisi is a Città d’Olio, and holds an oil festival on the last weekend in October. The Contradas excel themselves producing food almost all day long during the three-day festival, until either the visitors or supplies run out.
Through difficult times in the seventies when the population dwindled, and through the arrival of foreigners – stranieri – in recent years, Contradas have played a central role in Montisi’s determination to maintain a strong sense of identity.
Anon July 2017