The village of Sbronzuno stands
in the middle of a hill country with
a marked viticultural aptitude, the whole
village has a marked wine-growing and producing
aptitude, and its inhabitants have a marked aptitude towards
the alcoholic drinks consumption.
The village's streets are charged with heady fragrances of violet, bitter almond, forest fruits and vanilla, with an light aftertaste of vinegar, sulphur dioxide and vomit.
Sbronzuno is characterized by the unusual warm-heartedness of its inhabitants, who do not hesitate in welcoming the guests with hugs and kisses, involving them in toasts and general drinking parties, cheered by traditional choruses. It is advisable not to avoid this welcome, in order not to offend the sensibility of the Sbronzuneses, and for the same reason it is not opportune to go about in the village consuming soft drinks or water.
In any case possible debates end always pacifically thanks to the forbearing character of the villagers, and if they do not make it up before a glass of wine with bagels, it's just because in Sbronzuno the bagels are not common.
The village is also matter of research by the scientists of all the world, for its highest incidence of cirrhosis of the liver, that reaches percentages unique in the world, that could maybe be attributed to some dietary factor or to genetic predisposition. The highest mortality for hepatic diseases and road accidents due to the state of drunkenness, make the Sbronzuneses practically immune from every other kind of disease or accident, and also this circumstance is object of study for investigators of all the world.
Sbronzuno was probably founded by the Enotrians, who consecrated it to Dionysus, and later on Bacchus; in the burial places of the area the archeologists discovered a great number of wine amphoras and traces of road accidents involving animal-drawn vehicles.
In the following centuries all the nomadic people and the invading armies that passed in the area made long stopovers in Sbronzuno, often forgetting to leave again, contributing therefore to the remarkable genetic diversity of the inhabitants of the place.
The remarkable coming and going of peoples to Sbronzuno unavoidably carried to the flaring up of numberless epidemics and pestilences, which anyway didn't trouble particularly the population. Quite a different impact had the coming of phylloxera and grape mildew, which are still remembered by the inhabitants as terrifying scourges, while plague, cholera and diphtheria were experienced just like pleasant diversions.
What to see
Sbronzuno cathedral is dedicated to the local patron saint Saint Giovese, bishop of the village who was martyred by the pagans with a crusher-destemmer. The barrel vaults of the church are decorated by valuable fifteenth-century frescoes, attribuited to Botticelli, among the others the Noah's drunkenness, the triumph of Bacchus and the Lost Jars of Cana; moreover a Bruegel's oil painting on canvas is exhibited. For the sight-seeing apply to the parish priest Dom Perignon or to the curate Dom Bairo (the visit is free but the priests accept with pleasure as a gift goods like wine, bitters or spirit bottles).
In the cathedral the masses are usually very crowded, and many faithfuls use to get into the church just at the moment of the Holy Communion, that is celebrated following the Sbronzunese rite, in which the wine is administered with a jug; just after the Holy Communion the majority of the faithfuls leaves the church. Also the baptism is administered following a peculiar rite, a version of the baptism by immersion, providing that the fluid in which the person to be baptized must be dipped is sambuca (aniseed-flavoured liqueur).
The Saint Giovese Cathedral is the only church in the world provided with toilets, which are placed in rows along the aisles.
The main square of Sbronzuno, named after Martini & Rossi, hosts in its center the monument to Honoré de Tirebouchon, the discoverer of the corkscrew and a big wall painting dipinto murale reproducing Degas' absinthe, besides several commercial businesses, among which taverns, dives, vintners, wine bars, pubs, wine merchant's, wine cellars and wine and spirit shops.
The local museum of contemporary art "Veuve Cliquot" exhibits works by Boccioni, Medardo Rosso and a valuable set of the renowned (empty) bottles by Morandi.
The main Sbronzuno holiday is the grape harvest festival, in September, but are also very popular the goblet fair in October, the Dionysus symposium in November, the mulled wine days in December, the racking off of wine feast in January, the raisin wine show in February, the glasses Bacchanalia in March, the wine-flasks week in April, the Grappa Olympic Games in May, the Alpine troops' binge in June, the nip contest in July and the cocktail's challenge in August.
In the past it has been tried to differentiate the tourist offer of the village, organizing the "Tomato Juice Festival", but the initiative had no success, and was quickly abolished and replaced by the "Bloody Mary Festival".
The village hosts every spring the World Oenologists' Meeting and the Sommeliers' Congress, an occasion for debates, workshops and conferences, but above all symposia, meant in the literal etymological meaning of "drinking together".
Anyway it must not think that Sbronzuno offers attractions just to the wine lovers: the village provides a warm welcome even to the lovers of beer, cider, kumis, grappa and any other alcoholic drink.
A characteristic element of Sbronzuno are the first names, different from those used in the neighbouring villages: between the males the most common names are Ethyl, Morellino, Gutturnio and Trebbiano, while between the females Bonarda, Falanghina, Sulphite and Malmsey prevail. The isolated case of brother and sister christened with the curious names of Metabisulphite and Vaslin Press occurred also.
The territory of Sbronzuno is entirely occupied by vineyards, but there is also an intense activity of cattle, pigs, sheep and fowl breeding, fed wine-making by-products, like grape-stalks and wine marc. Cattle, sheep and pigs show perennially a characteristic laying down posture and narrow eyes or a curious glassy stare, while the village hens lay eggs with egg-nog flavoured yolk and as a peculiar trait they sing all day long.
The traditional objects produced by the Sbronzunese craftsmen are the lovely wine jugs, decorated with the typical zigzagging or shivering lines pattern. flasks, goblets, demijohns, the carafes decorated with ornamental patterns reminding the vintage. Many woodwork craftsmen are also operating but, in spite of what is maliciously claimed by the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages, don't produce just casks, but also barrels, kegs, St. Bernard dogs' barrels, wooden cups, tuns and winepresses.
The Sbronzunese people often are at table, but usually just drink wine or other alcoholic drinks, since, according to what they say, the food causes them heartburn; in the presence of foreigners having their meal, however, the villagers keep them company with pleasure, even though they usually abstain from solid food.
The specialties available for the hosts are numerous: between the first courses we remind the penne with vodka and the cognac or prosecco risottos, while between the main courses stand out the braised beef with Barolo wine, Marsala wine escalopes, chicken with beer and coq au vin; between the more typical desserts we remind ice cream with whisky, rum babas and malmset sorbet, and as fruit some grapes are always available. After the meal a luxuriant bitters and strong-drinks trolley is traditionally offered.
The Sbronzuneses' and their hosts' leisure is spent mainly in the taverns and wine bars of the village, which are open 24 hours a day. There is also a flying squad for a quick delivery of alcoholic drinks in every moment. In the sexy clubs the hostesses, rewarded "by the cork", have each a yearly turnover comparable to that of a multinational.
The village boasts a valuable football team, called "In Vino Veritas Sbronzuno", wearing burgundy jerseys, whose players are formidable for the unforeseeable trajectories of their shots and their confounding dribblings, even if their athletic strenght is limited: after the first goal (in favour or against), unfailingly the players hug one another and begin to sing out of tune bloody songs but, in any case, after five minutes from the' beginning of the match, are inclined to form snoring heaps by the corner kick flags. The supporters are very enthusiastic, especially at the beginning of the match, and support their favourite team chanting characteristic slogans like: "referee teetotaller!", but with the passing of the minutes even them are inclined to lose their shine and lie down on the terraces.
Some years ago the team has been in the eye of the storm, due to a scandal when an anti-doping control has evidenced that a player had a sulphur dioxide blood rate higher than the permitted limit.
The municipality offers to all the visitors a welcoming toast by the permanent stand in Dyonisus Square: the mayor Giuseppe Bianco, nicknamed "Pinot Bianco", stands in the front line in receivig every single visitor, being often moved to tears.
The sbronzunese hotel reception boasts hotels like the "Joyful Vine-shoots" with running water and wine in each room, il "Bacchus' Kingdom" with very well stocked mini-bars, the "Marquess of Barolo", with a very well stocked cellar.
Between the restaurants we remember the "Raisin Sun", whose only thing wrong is handing out to the customer only the wine list and not the menu, and the "Merry Cork", which has a good assortment of dishes, but its staff is inclined to an exaggerated expansiveness, using to seat at the tables with the customers, sharing their wine and telling them in a prolix and circumstantial their own personal vicissitudes, although being pitiful. We also remind, finally, the "Joie de ivre", specialized in French cuisine.
The Sbronzunese people are very responsive to the suffering of their neighbours, and always try to relieve them. In particular the association "Anonymous Teetotallers" is very active in taking care, by means of self-help groups coordinated by psychologists, of all the citizens having troubles with alcohol, in the sense that they do not have enough of it.
Services of anti-sobering first aid, provided by municipal tankers, are also available.
How to get there
It must remembered that, in order to respect the local traditions, the municipal Police's breathalyser controls are lacking, while the officers halt the cars just to check if some alcoholic drink are aboard, to confiscate them with futile pretexts.
From Sbronzuno Railway Station a bus service is available, reaching the village by a winding road, with sharp U-bends hanging over horrid precipices. The alcoholic condition of the bus drivers is so high that just the 7% of the rides reaches its destination, and for this reason the trip is considered as an extreme sport and the majority of the passengers wears a kamikaze bandanna and white clothes. At the departure in the bus terminal a notary public for the drawing up of the testamentary provision is available.
The Sbronzunese warm-heartedness is evident even in the tourist offices: everybody getting in to ask information, within few minutes find himself hugged to unknown people singing drunken songs, and usually forgets what was going to ask for. Any inquiry on the phone usually allow just to listen the above mentioned drunken songs, or even snoring choruses.