Yesterday was the Solemnity of the Assumption, one of the most important summer holidays in Catholic countries -- and mostly ignored in our own. That means only one thing, that right now in Siena, an insane number of people are crowding into the Piazza del Campo to watch the Palio dell'Assunta, held every year on the day after Assumption. Il Palio is a horse race -- well, it is really so much more than a horse race. It is a way of life, it is an excuse for a huge party. If you missed it, read my report on the Provenzano Palio last month.
The regular reports from Elitre at his Palio blog leading up to the race were that Leco (which means Leocorno, the contrada where my apartment was located in Siena) won the fourth prova and the big test race, the Prova Generale. The news has just arrived that Leco's rookie jockey, Scompiglio (né Jonatan Bartoletti) rode a veteran horse name Brento to victory in the Palio. Leco took the lead at the first curva di S. Martino and held on to win. It is a bitter day for the contrada of Civetta, which not only sees its enemy win the Palio but remains the nonna, or grandmother, the contrada that has not won a Palio for the longest time (since July 2, 1979). As the Sienese say, winter begins tonight in Siena, except for the two contrade that won the Palio this year, Oca and now Leocorno.
In related news, you will be able to see footage of this Palio in the new, as yet untitled James Bond film. Richard Owen has the story (Bond has activists on his tail over new film's 'brutal' horse race finale, August 13) for The Times:
The next Bond film is to reach its climax in a chase against the background of the Palio, the centuries-old and controversial bareback horse race in the historic Tuscan hill town of Siena. The cameras start to roll this Thursday, when the Palio is due to be run. [...] The plot is being kept under wraps. However, the town council at Siena has given permission for a climax in which Bond chases the villain through the steep and narrow cobbled streets and then pursues him across the rooftops and through the underground medieval aqueducts, while the horses thunder round the Campo, the main square.I guess I will have to see that. There is a Palio di Siena photo pool on Flickr, for the obsessed. Where's the grappa?
The film-makers have agreed to “strict conditions” obliging them to treat the race with “full respect”, according to Il Giornale. They are forbidden from showing any violence “involving either people or animals” that may occur. This week’s filming will focus on the race, with scenes involving actors inserted later. There will be 14 cameras placed at strategic positions around the arena but helicopters have been banned.
Well, it didn't take long for the Palio video to end up on YouTube (a few hours, in fact). The collision and fall on the first curva di S. Martino is a doozie.
Palio dell'Assunta (August 16, 2007)