misery like your contrada.” Truly, the bonds of contrada members is similar to kin. Some contrade even get into mischief together like brothers often will. The group of the Chiocciola is known as the Saint Drowners due to an incident involving the local well, the rival’s Patron Saint Anthony, and a strong grudge. Today the well is boarded over, probably to discourage other angsty contrada members from throwing more patron saints into the well. However, there are rules that bind the group on decorum during the Palio. In another
infamous incident, some adventurous individuals decided to steal the flags of the Valdimontone—the “Valley of the Ram” Contrada. When the enemy neighborhood—Contrada del Nicchio, the “Seashell”—saw the flags being stolen, they stopped the thieves and returned the stolen banners to the Valdimontone. So where is the line drawn? At the end of the day, who declares if stealing a flag or “drowning” a saint is the higher offense? For the people of Siena, the Palio is not just a set of do’s and don’ts, rivalries and alliances. “Il Palio è Vita!” Mencaroni beams. “The Palio is life.” Once you understand that, there’s nothing else to know. “During the winter, we are one,” Mencaroni continues. In fact, the contrade spend all winter deciding on possible jockeys. Since each horse is randomly drawn only four days before the race, there must be several jockeys available to train with the cavallo (horse). But when the July Palio crawls ever closer, Siena is no longer one unified city but 17 contrade, out for glory, victory, and the months of celebrating that follow; the winning group parties all night so that their enemies know of their victory. Even now, the flags of the different neighborhoods line the streets, snapping in the breeze—boasting of their power, their strength. Around every corner they sing the songs of tradition and history and a city divided. And yet, something about the way they converge, changing from one contrada to the next without a break, seems to whisper of the unity held within the city walls. After all, without one another, there would be no competition. Without competition, there would be no Palio. Without the Palio, there would be no life. In the words of the Sienese, “Il Palio è Vita!”
—Quinn Robbins Top: In the weeks leading up to the Palio race, the city is filled with parades and celebrations. Bottom: The Palio horse race consists of only three very intense laps around a track and is done in a matter of seconds.
14 ▶ winter 2016
Top: photo by Chiara Marra; Bottom: photo by Giulio Bernardi
with Torre, and how this simple piece of art expresses the Oca’s feelings for the members of the Tower Contrada. The room we stand in is so full of winning banners that the Oca group is running out of room to house all of their victories. “But it’s a good problem to have,” Amandolini grins. With the most wins recorded (66 to date), Oca is not well liked by its competitors. But such is the case with all other rival contrada. To lose the Palio brings disappointment, “but to watch your rival win is misery,” Mencaroni soberly explains. “No one else can understand your joy and your
Published on Jan 12, 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...