Written by Maren M, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for CET Florence: Italian Food, Art, and Society
On our bus ride to Siena the closer we got the more green trees, grasses and hills that we saw. When we first arrived we went straight for food and got ourselves some of Siena’s classic, Pici and not knowing what to expect when it arrived we were all pleasantly surprised. Pici was definitely not something any of us had ever seen before and the thickness was startling. During our time there I had pici almost 3 times within the 5 days we were staying but, our main focus of our trip in Siena was preparing for Palio and understanding the roots it has in Siena.
We had our first class and we discussed the strong foot hold that Palio has for the Senese people. Though I understood that it was a “horse race” in class we were told to never call it that because of how strongly and passionately Senese people feel about Palio. On the first night at our dinner with the college students we got our first peak into a dinner in the contrada. The dinner was insanely big, it looked like everyone in a town could have been sitting at those long wooden tables. The kids were running all around and playing with the other kids of the contrada, all while everyone is wearing their contrada colors and flags.
During class we had time to adventure around one of the contradas and my group and I went to Giraffa. We took pictures of their red and white flags, churches and their contrada fountain. Something we noticed about this contrada was that it was very quiet unlike the rest of the contradas we have visited but, it was also one of the most beautiful ones we had been too as well. We went back to class and shared our ideas with the rest of the students. As Palio grew closer you could see when walking to dinners or places to rest the growing excitement in each of the contradas and the louder cheering and parades as the flaunt their contradas race horses through town. The dinners even started blocking streets where we would have to find detours its to get around a contrada dinner.
We had been to a trial run but, we left very confused because there had been some trouble getting the horses to go fast but, we were all still excited to go to Palio. When Palio finally came we baked in the sun for what feels like forever playing games and waiting for the race to begin. The historical parade showed off each of the contradas as most were anxious about the start of the race. When the horses got out there and we waited for the start the crowd was completely silent not a sound was made in the piazza as they called the lineup. They had to re-do the line up several times because one horse was biting the other. When the race had finally begun the Valdimontone contrada was in lead the entire time until the very last second when Giraffa had pulled ahead. The crowd left in shock and tears of joy and sadness ran through the crowd. We were all left in shock and amazed around the excitement that we now felt and understood about Palio.