Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Palio Marches and Trials (by Sarah)

SIENA (#67)

We thought we could have a little rest for a while after our trip and all our guests, but NO WAY! We are all busy seeing friends all the time. The Palio is on Friday, and this whole week is going to be busier than ever.

First, there have been the marches or giri of the contrade. Each of the contrade have their turn to march or girare through the streets of Siena and pay respects to friendly contrade, the Commune, and the Bishop. The marches started about a month ago. Mom and Dad went on the Onda giro on Sunday.

Some Guests and Packing for Home (by Sarah)

SIENA (#66)

The 14th of June, the same day we returned from our vacation to the South, we started seeing a number of families and friends from the US.

First, the Zimble family arrived. We showed them around Siena and had a great time. The next day, we met with Rick, a friend from Lexington. On Wednesday, we went to mercato and then met with the Zimbles again for a wine tour in Castellina. After, we went back to their agri-tourism hotel and swam in their pool. We all helped to prepare a fabulous dinner, and then came back to Siena. The next day, we had a dinner with the Ducci family and with Rick. On Friday, Dad drove Rick to the airport in Florence. Saturday we went to Lucca and to the beach with the Gherardi family and with the Zimble family. We stayed in Lucca for the night at a hotel called Corte Degli Angeli. The next day, we went to Cinque Terre (the second time for us) with the Gherardis and the Zimbles. We had a great time and then headed back for Siena.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Our Trip to the South (by Sarah)

SIENA (#65)

Hey. It’s been a while since we have written anything. I decided to take the initiative and update all of our loyal readers on what the hell we’ve been doing this past busy month!

Both Alex’s and my school ended on Saturday, June 5th.  On the following Sunday, early in the morning, the contrada of the Giraffa made their march around the city, so I ran outside before we left and saw my friend Simone in complete uniform and throwing a huge flag up in the air along with others in the group.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The Contrada System of Siena (by Steve)

SIENA (#64)

Donatello Giallombardo
One of the things that contributes to the distinct character of Siena today is a unique social institution called the contrada.  One way to define contrada is “neighborhood association” because each one of them is mapped to a distinct geographical area of the City. Or you could define the contrada by the horse race that takes place every year in the town square, called the Palio:  the contrada would be like the team whose horse and rider compete in the Palio.  The problem with this approach, however, is that if you don’t know what the Palio is, it can’t really help you understand the contradas (or contrade in Italian).  

The Palio is more than a race and the contrade are much more than a neighborhood or sporting club that one can simply join. They are conservative social organizations with deep historical roots. Although they have been remarkably stable for centuries and are inherently traditional, they are alive, dynamic and continue to evolve. They have broad social, economic and even psychological functions and assume a dominant role in everyday, modern life in Siena. And as far as I can tell, the contrade are quite unique in the industrialized West.