Monday, July 5, 2010

Palio di Siena

July 2, 2010

Adam’s been the main blogger for the past few days because as soon as we get back to the room, I crash and fall asleep in 5 minutes! But today I’m writing. We spent the day in Siena at the Palio di Siena, otherwise known as the Siena horserace (palio means prize). What an amazing day to be in this city. We decided early on to join up with one of the 17 contradas (subdivision like areas of town) and follow them through the whole process of getting ready for this big day. Since Adam and I both have a love of giraffes, it felt only natural that they should be the team we root for! So we headed to the giraffe area of town, bought a giraffe scarf, watched the horse be brought into the local church and be blessed by the local priest, (They take this horserace very seriously!) and walked in the parade with the locals chanting G-G-Giraffe in our best Italian accents. Then it was time to make our way over to Il Campo to claim our piece of the burnt Siena ground with 50,000 of our closest European friends. We got there at 4:00, the pomp and circumstance started around 6:00 and the race at 7:30. Did I mention this race lasts for about 90 seconds? Close to 4 hours standing/sitting on the ground in a crowded, sweaty arena, watching our little cut out piece of space become smaller and smaller was making me wonder if this was worth it, but then the horses came out. Decorated with their bright colored sashes and saddles, the whole event is similar to a Renaissance festival but 10x more elaborate and awesome without the creepy vibe. And the local people wear scarves that have their contrada’s mascot around their shoulders instead of crazy costumes. Selected local men from each contrada learn a flag routine and perform it in front of the whole crowd. (Talk about some serious pressure not to drop the flag.) After about 5 false starts, the race was finally on. The roar of the crowd was intense, with everyone waving their flags and scarves in the area. We couldn’t see much from our position, but could hear the loud thuds of jockey’s falling off their horses into the side walls. The track is a very tight oval with mattresses placed around the tight curves, for such falls. It was over far too quickly with the tree contrada as the winner. Our giraffe jockey, along with two others, fell off his horse after the second lap.

So it was a great day. I would highly recommend experiencing the Palio at least once, although we did learn you don’t have to get there really early, just push your way through the crowd to find a spot.

Going to bed now. Tomorrow is either Florence or a day hanging at the agritourismo, which has the best view in Tuscany in my opinion!!


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