Friday, August 31, 2012

Day 4 Afternoon: Siena

Siena is famous (although I'd never heard of it!) for it's horse race called the Palio.

The city is divided into seventeen sections and they are very territorial. Until recently, they weren't even allowed to marry someone from a different section. (Think Romeo and Juliette only not in Verona).

Each section grooms one horse to race for it. Since seventeen horses won't fit in the square where they race, they divide the race into two dates. One is held in July for half the horses and the other in August. We got there three days after the last race.

As you can see there isn't much room between the buildings and the posts. Ten thousand people cram into into center. They can't really see much but just being there is a thrill. The apartments around the square are even rented out so people can watch from the windows.

There is so much pride involved. Each section has it's own flag.

And the lights are decorated to match.

The residents take it so seriously, that the horses and jockeys can't even live nearby because they might get poisoned or bribed by a rival.

The race itself isn't so much about winning as about preventing their arch enemy from winning and, to that end, it gets quite violent. The race is televised on Italian TV but they aren't allowed to show the really gruesome parts because animal rights groups are up in arms over the abuse to the animals, and rightly so. But tradition is so strong they haven't been able to change much, yet.

Anyway, for days afterwards the winning section celebrates by wearing their flags like scarves with pacifiers on the end to symbolize a new beginning.

After getting over the horror of this ancient ritual carried on to this day, Dottie and I walked around until we found a shady outdoor cafe where we had some lunch. We weren't too hungry so ordered light. I had a Caprese cool and refreshing.

Dottie had a fruit salad.

In spite of the beautiful buildings

and artwork

we were happy when our bus picked us up and headed back to Montecatini. To stay awake, I tried taking some photos through the bus window.

The peaceful Tuscan countryside was the perfect antidote to that disturbing bit of ancient history carried into the present.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Cindy said...

I can't even imagine!!!It is in those type of locations that I always feel like the 'pampered, protected, spoiled' American and happily so! Brits make me feel spoiled with 'minding the gap'! I am such a bleeding heart when it comes to animals, I would have run as fast I could from there just like you and Dottie did!

Lisa said...

The traditions and regalia surrounding the race is what is most interesting to me. The flags and the pacifiers--ha!