On Monday, the day was finally here. The 2nd of July. A day awaited for a whole year from all Sienese people and also from me. The Palio. Till the very day I considered not going to the actual horse race (I have been to a lot of the practice races), because let´s face it I am slightly claustrophobic and with my super low blood pressure I tend to faint standing in the sun for too long. And this is what we were about to do. We would stand in the sun with a humongous amount of people and wait. While melting away, we would count the minutes till the canon ball announced the arrival of the jockeys. This is not exactly my ideal situation to watch horse races. But then I made a decision during the midday and I gathered all my strength for the task ahead. Luckily I have some pretty awesome roomies, which know how things are done in this town. A lot of tourists waited in the full midday sun since two pm, when the race would not start till eight. So here is how we proceeded, we rested and relaxed during the day and as half past six came along we squeezed simultaneously through a tiny street, the last one still open at that time. It felt like pushing through the birth canal all over again. Via Dupré is not even broad enough for two cars to pass next to each other, but what felt like ten thousand Sienese people, they now how it´s done. Forget queuing and organization, we are in Italy!
Even if till now my description of the big day sounds weird, it is a day I am sure I will tell my kids about. One day when they come into the house after running around between cherry trees and basil, when I am about to lay them down for the night and their big hungry kids eyes are glued to my face as I am about to tell the goodnight story.
I will tell them of a town, far, far away. Hidden between the Tuscan hills, where tradition is hold higher than any value in the life of many people. I will tell them of noble man and race horses, of Carabinieri dressed Armani (yes they will know what that means)…
… I will tell of a tension I have never seen before in a crowd so passionate.
… I will tell them that the minimum 35° degree sun felt refreshing after finally arriving in the piazza.
… about all the colorful Contrada (neighborhoods) processions passing by.
… about fierce rivalty between the Contrada´s.
… about the fest being of unity felt among anything.
… about fazzoletti (scarf´s with each Contrada´s emblem), swung high in the air as the oxen drawn wagon passed by.
… about the absolute silence when the positions of the horses are drawn, and how emotions swing high with each representative horse coming to the starting line, or rope in this case.
… about the not even full two minutes of the race, when the whole universe seems to breath nothing else but this moment.
… how the members of the winning contrada tear up, go over barricades, hug their horse and jockey.
… how the contrada del´Onda (neighborhood of the Wave) will swing their noble flags for hours around the city center.
And how the night dissolves into a fest which will not stop for several days.
This is passion.
This is Siena.
And at night I lay my head down with the feeling of being honored and thankful to have witnessed the Palio.