Alessandro and I went to Siena last night for the cena della prova generale (dinner for the trials) of the Palio di Siena. I had never been to see the Palio before and was eager to finally see some part of it. I had been to Siena right before the Palio when the campo was filled with dirt, but never with so many people there like in my photo.
We met up with two of Alessandro's friends and walked to the campo. I had seen pictures of the Palio before, yet I was shocked to see all the people all around waiting for the prova generale (trials) to begin. We pushed our way into the area where we could stand in the middle of the campo. I was happy we got there late enough so that we wouldn't be lost in the middle somewhere.
After they closed the gate, men in uniforms carrying swords rode around the campo on horseback. They galloped slowly around once, and then at one point they sped up holding out their swords in front of them as if they were in a battle. They whizzed around the campo so fast I could feel the ground shake. After one time around, they left. The crowds cheered and while waiting for the fantini (jockeys) to come out, the different people from the contrade (city districts) sang their songs.
A few minutes passed and the long awaited fantini came out on their horses and went around once. Then, they all lined up and stood at the line before they could begin the race. Once the race started, they ran fast around the campo twice. I didn't know which contrada we were supposed to be rooting for, so I just watched the fantini and was happy when one of them won.
The trial race ended quickly and we were let out of the middle area. We went to get an aperitivo at a local bar while we waited for our dinner that was supposed to start at 9PM.
We walked to the Contrada di Valdimontone for the cena (dinner). We walked into a gated area where there were tables everywhere, and one long one going down a long incline. I would imagine that there were at least a thousand people there.
We ended up being about 20 in all. Alessandro's friends knew everyone else because they had spent the weekend in Siena with them. I felt a little out of place because after the introductions before sitting down to eat, no one talked to me. A few of the girls barely even said hi to me and that made me feel a bit awkward.
After the antipasti (appetizers), I decided to start a conversation with the girl to my right who was from Milan because for the last hour I had only talked to Alessandro. As I talked to her, the girl across from Alessandro asked where I was from. I could hear their conversation in bits and pieces, especially when he said "È americana." The milanese (girl from Milan) thought I was from Brazil, which was a first for me. I talked to her and her boyfriend, who was fiorentino (Florentine) and works for WalMart in Florence. He was intersting to talk to because he was the only person I've spoken to that interspersed his conversation with English words that he must use for work, like "distribution center."
The guy across from me, who is a romano (guy from Rome), didn't talk to me, but smiled a lot. After my conversation with the two to my right was exhausted, I ended up not talking much to anyone. Alessandro was on my left and his friend was on his left, so I tried to talk to them instead. I was trying to be social by talking to people I didn't know, but I didn't feel at ease with this large group. Maybe because they all bonded before we arrived.
We finished up dinner around midnight and by the time we got back to Florence it was well past 1AM. I was exhausted, but so happy to have experienced the Palio as I did with members from a contrada (city district). I had heard that the Palio was important to the sienesi (people from Siena), but it was amazing to be there to witness it.
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