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We are in first half of the 14th century. Despite the contrasts of the Contrade the people from Montepulciano are keen on celebrating St. John the Baptist their patron’s day, having the tradional annual fair set up. Unfortunately the festive joy is overshadowed by the nomination to the office of Podestà, a major figure among the Magistrates of the time, of an ambitious power-hungy man, who on his arrival, disrespectful of the current municipal laws and as a display of authority, spoils the joyous atmosphere of the day imposing fines to most vendors. The offended citizens, on return, make an alliance to oppose the Magistrate who aware of the saying “dividi et impera” calls for a competition called Bravio, the winning Contrada will have its fines condoned. The contest gives also an opportunity of raising to the poorer Contrade and of increasing power and money to the richest.
The skilful Podestà’s strokes are almost causing the break of two young men’s friendship, promising a false noble title as a reward, the new ruler of the Comune convinces Duccio a young merchant from Voltaia to kill Lorenzo, his friend from S.Donato. Luckily, before committing the murder Duccio repents and together the two friends, vainly, plan an unsuccessful attack to the Magistrate, they are captured and arrested. Only the two fiends’ cute wives can devise an escape and free the town from the cruel Podestà. Disguised as Ada, a popolana seducer of her husband, the Podestà’s wife meets her husband secretely, there he admits fancing the girl and planning evil plots for the town.
The townspeole warned by Ada’s father hear the Podestà’s confession and realize that the caught-red-handed man is unable of self-defense and deserves expulsion. The Bravio race will still take place to celebrate the newfound peace of the Contrade.
The scene opens in crowded Piazza Grande where people have rushed to see the fair in honor of St. John the Baptist Beheaded. The merriment around busy merchants acrobats, competing people and unscathed poultry is abruptly broken by the nomination to Podestà, the highest magistrate in town, of an ambitious man, who in order to assert his authority starts vexing the vendors infringing the laws and harming the poorer Contrade. After a first clash, the representatives charge each other with accusations unaware that this is just what the magisrate wants: cause divisions and gain the noble families’support.
In the garden where Ada's house, a low-class woman from Coste and Caterina's palace, a noblewoman from Talosa overlook, Carolina from Collazzi and a friend try to teach the girls how to capture their lovers: Lorenzo from the noble Contrada of S.Donato and Duccio a merchant from Voltaia. The two friends' sudden arrival causes an interruption, together with their friends Donato and Cecco they plan a serenade to their beloved girls. The idyllic moment is broken by Caterina's mother unwilling to see her daughter spending time with low-class people. Hearing the voices, Ada's father too tries to keep his daughter away convinced that the young nobleman's attentions are just a passing fancy which might dishonor the girl. After Carolina is forced to go home too,the four men are left in the garden to complain about their families' rivalry and obstacle to their love desires. They are also concerned about how the Contrade's fight has incresed after the new podestà's arrival
The scene opens again in St. John's fair, the four men do not accept how the Contrade are harassed by fines and taxes. To oppose the harassment and involve all the community they play a trick to the new magistrate. Aware of how fond the podestà's wife Madonna Luisa is to some birds she always takes with her, they plan to let them free and make her believe have been killed and roasted spit, later disguised as ghosts they threaten the couple with the same fate, so the scared woman tells her husband who immediately understands the trick and on revenge is even harder with the Contrade. This will cause more division among the leaders of the protest.
The Podestà calls for the traditional joust on St. John's day, the winner will be awarded 100 golden florins. Surprisingly he introduces a new competition called Bravio, the winning contrada will have all the fines condoned. New disputes arise, fiendship is shaken, Lorenzo and Caterina suggst this is just a way to increase hates and division, the poorer Contrade want the money to meet debts and don't listen to the noblemen's words. Opposing to Ada's father Lorenzo reveals his love for the paesant woman and promises to give her the money but Duccio aims at getting a noble title to marry Caterina and needs the money too. The friends are now at war, under the partially satisfied Podestà's complacent gaze.
Caterina's mother the countess of Talosa doesn't like her daughter to have an affair with a merchant and asks for the podestà's help to set the lovers apart offering in return the noble families'support. The podestà agrees but plots to have Duccio on his side in another intrigue: he wants to get rid of Lorenzo, the real thorn on the side, a rebel to rules and customs for peace harmony and love. Promising titles and money the podestà corrupts Duccio who expecting in return a possibility to marry beloved Caterina agrees to kill his best friend unaware of countess of Talosa's complicity
It's the night dedicated to the Patron Saint's offer of candles. The groups parade to the Cathedral but the solemn and peaceful event turns into a tough fight among the well organized Contrade now hurting one another with heavy tricks
It's the joust night, Duccio and Lorenzo aim to win. During the final arrangements Ada is left alone and the Podestà takes the opportunity to reveal his attraction for her offering money in case she gives in to him. The girl promptly refuses and after Caterina's threat the man behaves as planned, now the competition starts. As agreed Duccio is able to unarm Lorenzo but on the point of killing him admits his wicked pact with the leader of the town. The nobleman from S.Donato forgives his friend and the two men wielding a sword head to the Podestà when the magistrate's cops stop and jail them
Ada and Caterina find a way to set their friends free, talking to Madonna Luisa, the Podestà's wife, reveal how her husband is fancying the girl. Unwilling to believe that she's asked to take part in a trick they have planned. The podestà is invited to a secret meeting with Ada but instead, his disguised wife turns up so becoming aware of her husband's falseness. Ada's father also listening to the woman's talk understands how his daughter is ready to self sacrifice to free Lorenzo
Madonna Luisa agrees to disguise to check her husband's faithfulness. The deceived man, unaware that the alerted townpeople are also listening admits his plots and suggests eloping. Now everyone knows how mean the magistrate is. Found guilty, in accomplice with countess of Talosa and unable of self defense, the man is sent away and peace is restored in Montepulciano. The new competition called Bravio will still be run as symbol of newfound harmony instead of hate and discord.