Saturday, August 16, 2008

Siena during Palio

July 2nd and August 16th each year the town of Siena is transformed into a grand arena where one can experience what the Sienese life evolves around all year long - The Palio. A tradition dating back as early as the 14th century, the Palio has retained its importance in daily life today.
To the visitor, the Palio is an anything-goes, bareback horse race between 10 horses which race around a track 3 times and the winner gets the Palio - a beautiful silk banner designed by local artists which is proudly displayed in the town hall of the winning neighborhood or Contrada. The track is made with truckloads of earth laid down around the Piazza del Campo, one of the most beautiful piazzas in all of Italy. The days leading up to the event are filled with trial races and fanfare , flag waiving and general pageantry.
To the Sienese, the dedication and conviction to their heritage, to their religion, to their community, and to their entire existence is based around the Palio. Only the Sienese can truly understand the importance of this race - It is indeed the true pulse of Siena.

The Palio of August 16, 2008, it was also a very special day as it was a big birthday of one of our very dear friends Al and the reason for our trip. Our group had fun selecting our favorite contrada , purchased flags denoting their emblems and colors and watched the race from a small bar outside of town - far from the madding crowds. This year Il Bruco won - the caterpillar - it was the neighborhood I stayed in while attending language school in Siena. It was good to see Il Bruco win. Just 4 years prior on the Palio of August 16th, 2004, Il Bruco's horse fell and was badly trampled and died of its injuries. A very sad sacrifice. Long live Siena and the Palio.

For more information on the Palio in Siena - please visit
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