As you all know, we are living in Siena, Italy. I thought I should share a little history and some facts about Siena, so you can have a better idea of where we are here.
Siena is a medieval city located in central Tuscany. It's population is just under 60,000. The historic center is divided into 17 neighborhoods, or contrade, which are represented by an animal or symbol. Each resident is fiercely loyal to their neighborhood. As you walk the streets of Siena, you can tell as you pass through each respective neighborhood because there are colorful flag depeciting their symbol from each building. This neighborhood rivalry comes to a head 2 times per year at the Palio, a medieval bareback horserace that takes place on July 3 and August 16. Each contrade has a horse and a jockey that is blessed by their respective church before the race to win the pride of the citizens. The first horse to make it around the piazza del campo 3 times is the winner. If the rider falls off, but the horse crosses the finish first, that horse still wins. People have died in this race before. Just go here and watch the video, it is worth it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9cTrTPbH8s
People are VERY serious about this here. As I write this, there is a gathering outside of the internet cafe for the neighborhood "Lupa." There are men outside in medieval costumes of tights waving flags and beating drums cheering for their contrade. I had to take a break and go outside to take a picture. The palio was 3 weeks ago! The pride that each neighborhood has is crazy to me! The neighborhood that we live in is the "Civetta" which means owl. Our neighborhood actually won the August Palio!! Since we have arrived here, there has been partying every night in our neighborhood. And it's not just partying, its everyone in the neighborhood, young and old, parading the street, beating drums and waving flags, singing and cheering for the Civetta. The Civetta has not won the palio in 30 years, so it is a good cause for celebration. I guess I am kind of rambing on about this here, but I find it very fascinating the pride that these people have. I am very excited to be here next year during the entire Palio season!
This is the men of the Civetta marching around with their Palio banner
Right outside my aparment door, with the flag of the Civetta.