Since 1908 the n.1 source of all things Italian featuring Italian news, culture, business and travel

Issue link: https://italoamericanodigital.uberflip.com/i/340535

Contents of this Issue


Page 1 of 27

L'Italo-Americano THURSDAY, JULY 3, 2014 www.italoamericano.com 2 The Palio di Siena: a century-old competition of contrade Continued from page 1 by draw. Siena's town quarters are his- torical institutions, having their own representatives, emblems, festivities, and patron saints to protect the jockeys and horses, as well as their own territories. These were defined in 1730 by the town's governess, Violante of Bavaria, who also reduced the number of contrade. In the beginning, there were 59 of them, each named after an animal, and the race was run all across the city accompanied also by jousting, archery, crossbow, and other public games. The modern version of the Palio "alla tonda" (running in a cir- cle), as it is known today, was held for the first time in 1656. A colorful two-hour pageant preceding the race attracts national visitors as well as for- eign tourists. Riding bareback and dressed in traditional costumes, the 10 jockeys circle the main town square, Piazza del Campo, three times, trying to stay in the sad- dle and to disturb rivals' horses by shoving them or using the whip. In fact, the horse repre- senting the contrada can win the Palio even if its rider has been unsaddled. Interesting enough, the loser is considered to be the second to cross the finish line, not the last. The most successful ward is Oca (Goose) with 65 victories since 1644. Winning both the July and August races is quite rare and known as "fare cappotto". But besides the Palio itself, in the days prior to the competi- tion the overall atmosphere in the town is especially vibrant and exciting, as each contrada plans its strategy through secret meetings, alliances, and local rivalries that have existed for centuries. In most cases, the dis- appointment when a contrada fails to win the Palio can only be compensated by the defeat of its sworn enemy. Among the oldest animosities is the one between Chiocciola (Snail) and Tartuca (Tortoise), probably the result of a territorial dispute in the 1650s. Jokes and mockeries continue also after the race, when the winner is awarded the Palio – a banner of hand-painted silk commissioned to a local artist - and the contrada that has been without a victory for the longest time is teased and nicknamed "nonna" (grandmother). Occasionally, the excessive enthusiasm of the celebrations can trigger violent episodes involving opposing quarters. In love and war everything is fair, and victory is the reward for a yearlong preparation to train the horses and find the most talented jockeys in town. Jockeys during the typical horse races known as Palio

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of L'Italo-Americano - italoamericano-digital-7-3-2014