The āPalio di Sienaā, folly and a part of everyday life
During the last ten decades there is an abundance oftournaments and jousts everywhere in Italy. Especially, since one hasunderstood that a “palio”, a race or a tournament particularly if in medievalcostumes draws big crowds and hence a lot of money.
But if someone thinks, even slightly so, that the Paliodi Siena belongs to this category, they are wrong, very wrong. In fact, forthose of us who is not a Sienese the Palio is something traditional andcharacteristic, something to watch on television; two and half minutes of pureadrenaline while following the horsesgalloping around Piazza del Campo. For the Sienese instead, the Palio is, and has been since 1644, somethingtotally different. In brief, for the Sienese, the Palio is a way of life.
Il Palio di Siena is held twicea year, on July 2 and on August 16. The race for the Sienese is the highlight of the year, the eventwith a capital E. For the inhabitants of Siena the Palio is everyday life, simply a part oflife. Since 1729, Siena is divided into 17contrade: Oca (Goose), Chiocciola (Snail),Tartuca (Tortoise), Torre (Tower), Valdimontone (Valley of the Ram), Nicchio(Seachell), Istrice (Crested Porcupine), Onda (Wave), Bruco (Caterpillar) Selva(Forest), Drago (Dragon), Lupa (She-Wolf), Civetta (Little Owl), Giraffa(Giraffe), Leocorno (Unicorn), Pantera (Panther), Aquila (Eagle).
Every contrada is a smallstate, held by a Prior, with a church and a custody to keep the patrimony:heirlooms, banners, costumes. Everyday life is marked by the life of thecontrada every day of the year. But these customs of the contrada, which mayseem pure folly to whom is not a Sienese, slowly reach their culmination as itgets closer to the day of the Palio.
There are 10 out of 17 Contradewhich participate by draw in the race. The order in which the 9 horses start is also by lot while the tenth horse enters by“rincorsa” (by running in) at the moment the jockey finds most suitable.Rarely is the first start valid, butas long as there is daylight they can keep on trying but if when it gets darkit still hasn’t come to a valid starteverything gets postponed to the day after. When the startis valid, the horses (even without the jockey, in local jargon called “cavalliscossi”) have to race around the piazza three times (ca 1,000 metres). Thewinner gets the “cencio” ļ¿½" the Banner. The party, for thecontrada and its allies who win can now start,and it lasts more or less… until the next Palio!