Saturday, July 2, 2011

Il Palio

Today I got up at 5 30 to go to the Palio in Siena, which is a horse race that takes place in a piazza called the piazza del campo. I had a delay getting to Siena, but once I got there I saw that the center of the city is old and adorable. The flags and souvenirs of the contrade were all over the place and I decided to support Bruca, the caterpillar, because the colors are yellow and green. The piazza closes at about 4 30 but I was worried about getting a good place so I went in at 2 30 after seeing Sienas Basilicatta and also buying some gifts. I strategically chose the highest ground in the piazza and a place quite near the fence. The piazza was very uneven, so from a high point I realized that I would be able to see more than half the track even with everyone standing, but people on the lower part probbaly couldnt really see the high part well. Im not sure if my theory about their view is correct, but mine was quite good and only a patch behind me was invisible where I couldnt see over peoples heads.

First there was a parade which began at 5 and ended at 7 30. The parade became monotonous after awhile so I sat down to read a bit. I may have mentioned that I bought a copy of the Portrait of Dorian Gray translated in Italian. When the race started the horses had to line up twice because the first time one of them spooked. Everyone was being very quiet because the horses get scared easily. Not all 17 contrada compete in the race and I was pleased to see that Bruca was one of the 10 or so that did. When the race started all I could see was that Bruca had made a break for the front. It was exciting because at the first half lap he was about 5 horse lengths ahead of the pack. Unfortunately, Bruca was also the first to fall off his horse. Rideless horses are allowed to finish and win the race, but this was so early on that he didnt stand a chance. The other jockeys passed easily, but by the end at least 4 horses finished without riders. One of the conservative riders ended up coming forward, Oca, the Goose, to win.

I was worried about getting back to the train because I needed to check into my hostel by midnight unless I wanted to be homeless, and the race had started later than I expected. I followed an aggressive lady out of the piazza and the exit we left from we were literally next to the horse. Three steps and I could have touched it. The jockey was crying and being hoisted into the air and somehow I was suddenly in the middle of it. I think only the media beat me and the lady onto the track, since most people were being wary of whether they were allowed to leave yet I think. I whipped out my camera and took some chaotic pictures. At that point people were crying and singing and I was swept into the victory parade, which is seemed that all the fans from Siena were a part of. I felt a bit out of place since I hadnt even been routing for Oca, but I pretended to sing along and went with the crowd, hoping it would take me to the bus station. I saw such emotion and excitement in the victory parade that I can only imagine I was walking with the locals. Tourists, like myself, just chose the symbols they preferred for the most part. The horse walked into a church and the piazza in front was filling when I left the victory parade.

By the way, for those fans who have noticed a change in my blog, Zurich has been bumped up to the top because I added photos. Im not sure why the others werent bumped up as well to put them back in correct order. I have uploaded a few photos, but they each took over a minute to load, which was 1 boring and 2 costing me a fortune in internet cafe bills, so I will post the rest on facebook later, probably when I get back to the US. I think this is the longest Ive stayed away from facebook since high school and I dont plan to go back now.

I am in Florence now and it should be beautiful. Unfortunately my camera battery just died and I didnt think to bring my charger with me. I will have to take mental snapshots. Im sure the famous sites that I visit can be looked up online, and many places I go will likely forbid photography anyway.

Celebration after Oca, the Goose, won. You can see how close I was to the jockey and the man in the front about to cry

Oca winning!

The jockey and the man on the left crying of joy.

The victory parade. I tried to sing along!


  1. I ran into a man at the pool today who said that there is an outlet shopping area in Florence. I have no idea what they would consider a discount to be but thought I would mention it since you are in the area!