Sunday, July 3, 2011

Il Palio

Yesterday, Siena was in mass chaos with the famous Palio race! It was such a intense experience and I am so glad that I got to be here to witness and experience it. 

 For those of you who don't know, the Palio is a horse race that dates back to medieval times.  Its a race between 10 of the 17 contradas (neighborhoods) chosen randomly.  Actually, the whole race is random.  The horses that are raced are chosen randomly, the jockeys are from Sicily and are random, and the starting place is chosen at random.  Back to the jockeys, they are pretty much disposable in the Sienese people's eyes.  Its all about the horses.  The reason is that a jockey can be payed off to lose, and also, in order to win the race, your horse has to cross the line (with or without the jockey.)

Everyone is packed into the Piazza del Campo, whether its in the middle which is free, or whether in the bleachers or surrounding windows and balconies, which someone quoted as to being up to $1500.  That is how much of a big deal this is to the people.  

Anyway, you wait for a couple of hours as the historic parade goes around the middle which took up to 1 and 1/2 hours. You have flag throwers and such. 

Our group waiting for it to start

Fulvio and I :]
He is our flatmate from Foggia, Italy. He is really funny. 

Me, wearing a Civetta scarf.  

Then the horses come out and everyone quiets down. Its literally goes from super loud to not even a whisper.  Everyone is waiting to hear the line up of the horses.  You hear groans or cheers as a certain horse gets first or last.  The contrada, Civetta "Owl", that I was cheering for was last in lineup.  :[

The race itself lasted about 1 minute, but with the start of 9 horses and riders, only about 4 jockeys were left to finish and the winner was Oca "Goose" contrada.  I heard they were one if not the most hated contrada of the city. 

The guy in the green, white and red in the middle left is the jockey for the Oca contrada that won.

That night, we all hung out in our kitchen singing along with the guitar and laptop just showcasing the talent that we have in the group. It was seriously, the best night ever.

Today, I woke up and Jack, one of our professors said he was going to take his kids on a hike to the Castello Quattro Torra or "Castle of Four Towers."  It was a hike. I believe 4 miles, uphill halfway.  I almost passed out at first, and about halfway, my adrenaline must have kicked in because I was fine, until my knee started bothering me.  But it was gorgeous.

Baby olives

 Castello Quattro Torra

Tuscan Landscape

This door is just gorgeous!

 Where we hiked from! that is Siena!

 Flower from the hike

Once, I got home, I am telling you, my legs were aching and sore. 
Back to language classes tomorrow. :]

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