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Photo by Angelo Amboldi

The city of Siena is broken up into 17 contrades that each have their own color, flag, and symbol which creates many rivalries and allies.

by decades of disputes, the race has become a tradition where allies and enemies come together for three turns of the track. The rivalries in this city run deep, to the point where one would wonder if Siena is a city united by the Palio or divided by it. Luca Bonomi, director of the Dante Alighieri Institute of Siena, says of the rivalries, “I have a colleague who is from Contrada dell’Oca. I did not know [that] when I hired her.” He shakes his head and chuckles. “During the year, we talk, and we are good friends. She often stops by my office to chat. But during the Palio we say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and that is it.” Because most Sienese live the totality of their lives in the same neighborhood in which they were born, these strong rivalries are as real today as they were decades ago. The rivalries between contrade started when the neighborhoods would offend one another by killing a member of a different one. Similar to gangs in America, the groups held grudges and took revenge.

“We don’t kill each other anymore,” Rebecca Mencaroni of the Onda Contrada explains. But from birth, members of opposing contrade are taught to dislike one another. “They are ugly, they are ugly, they

“During the Palio we say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and that is it.” are ugly,” Mencaroni chants, as if this were her bedtime lullaby. She even casts a pessimistic light upon the allies: “Yes, we have allies, but not really. Even they are too lowly for our notice.” This view, however, doesn’t stop the contrada members from mingling. Mencaroni, herself

a member of the Wave Contrada, is dating a man from the Tartuca. “Two households both alike in dignity,” Mencaroni and her boyfriend were raised to hate one another. “We’ve been together for seven years. After the first few years we learned to just not talk about the Palio,” Mencaroni shrugs with a smirk. And while most of the contrade dislike one or two other groups and tolerate the rest, there is one neighborhood that is hated above all else: La Nobile Contrada dell’Oca, the Goose Contrada. Within the museum of the Oca Contrada sits a glass case that holds 17 miniature horses with jockeys, each representing one of the contrade of Siena. Each rider is seen looking towards the starter, waiting for the gun, ready for the race . . . except one. The rider from the Torre Contrada, or “Tower Contrada”—blood rivals of the Goose Contrada—gazes off, a dim expression in his eyes. The museum guide, Duccio Amandolini, points our attention to the case, chuckling. Humorously, he tells of the rivalry

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Stowaway Winter 2016  

Winter is here, but adventure awaits! Strike up a conversation, spark a new interest, or slip into something familiar in this issue of Stowa...

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