Traveller's Notes 03 June 2015 2 202

Go and Come Back a Winner

A prominent politician turns traveller: in this new film cycle, Sergey Yastrzhembsky strays off the beaten path to explore traditional ways of life in tribes and small societies across Africa, Europe and South America. Join him as he discovers fascinating myths and legends, ancient traditions, and unique lifestyles of people in faraway lands.

In this episode, He travels to the small Italian town of Siena, to experience the Palio, or “Il Palio De Siena”, a bareback horse race which has remained virtually unchanged since medieval times. It is by far the most famous horse race in Italy, and the last bareback race in the world. Siena has been hosting this ancient tradition twice a year since the times of knights and lords. This event dates back to the times when wars were fought between Siena and neighboring Florence.

In the weeks leading up to the Palio horse race, the main square is transformed into a racetrack in order to host the event. There are several factions in the town, known as castradas, and each one hosts a horse and rider in the event. The townspeople devote their whole lives to their castrada. Each region has its own families, stores, and churches.

Though each castrada hires a jockey for the race, the horses are the real heroes. A month before the event, castradas win their horses by lottery. Even before the event, the square fills to the brink with upwards of 40,000 fans for all of the various preliminary events.

Finally, race day arrives. A parade begins the festivities with participants sporting flamboyant traditional costumes and colours. The banner of Siena leads the procession, along with those of ancient families and workers guilds. Then comes the castradas, with each group showing their colours and pride. This all leads up to the famed Il Palio itself. In the end, the winner receives the prized Palio banner, and praise and admiration from all.

The complete Traveller's Notes series

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