Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Dull Italian trilogy part 3

Imagine if you will, the people of London converging on Trafalgar Square singing the songs of their region. East Londoners; The Lambeth Walk, those from the West; Tosca, the North, If I Were A Rich Man and the South; 21 Seconds by So Solid Crew. Each follows a horse and a little man in pyjamas, upon which their hopes and dreams rely.

The Siena Palio is the Italy’s most spectacular festival. Every July and August the town’s seventeen family groups or Contrada establish bragging rights through a series of brutal, lawless horse races around Il Campo, the town centre, not the Bolton centre back.

Before each race the Contrada march through the streets, singing songs of battle, afterwards they feast and celebrate. The races are riddled with corruption, it’s been known for jockeys, local Italian cowboys, to be kidnapped on the way to a race. Corruption runs so deep, it is said that by the time they get to the start line no more than three of the seventeen horses have any chance of winning such is the drugging and bribery that goes on.

After an hour and more of jockeying for starting positions, the race lasts 90 seconds, jockeys ride bareback and are frequently sent crashing to the floor. It’s a contradictory event, the rivalries are fierce, yet the atmosphere celebratory and friendly, the racing is chaotic, yet regimented by history and pageantry.

Emma nearly fainted in the crowds, we waited for three hours for something to happen, I’ve no idea who won. It was ace.


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