"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'" ~ C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

#taggedPOSSESSION and Tuscan Tales Day 2: Siena

First I want to shout out that today is Elana Johnson's BOOK BIRTHDAY!
If you haven't ordered or gotten your copy of her book you should definitely go do that. It's amazing, just like she is! AND you can even enter to win a signed copy. All this week there are contests going on to celebrate. Today it's over at Lisa and Laura Roecker's blog so go check it out!

Non-Spoilery review:

Vi keeps breaking the rules, but she doesn't really consider herself a baddie. Until she gets banished to the badlands for walking in the park with a boy. Even though the boy is her match, Zenn. Totally unfair. And she gets stuck with the total baddie Jag who is driving her crazy. In more ways than one. The Thinkers have always made the decisions, but now Vi has to make her own choices. Real choices. And no matter what she chooses someone is going to get hurt.

Go. Buy. My blog will still be here when you get back. :)

Okay, now on to more tales from Tuscany!

I know I said this yesterday, but I just adored my time in Siena. We were there the longest out of the three places we visited, but I just loved the people, the atmosphere, the town itself. One of the biggest things is the major sense of community that everyone has and I really think this grows out of their districts or contrade. The contrade were originally formed in the Middle Ages, but are still a huge part of the city today. Siena is divided into 17 contrade and each contrada has its own church, museum, and group of leaders. To join a contrada you go through a secular baptism and you pay a yearly membership fee that helps support the community and, in particular, the Palio, the bi-yearly horse race that is, according to everyone who has seen it, crazy and amazing.
Here are a few of the contrada symbols. They have these little plaques at the borders of the contrada so everyone knows where one ends and another begins.
Top left - turtle, top right - forest, bottom left - eagle, bottom right - um... wave I think.

The 17 current contrade are as follows:
eagle, caterpillar, snail, owl, dragon, giraffe, unicorn, she-wolf, shell, goose, wave, panther, forest, turtle, tower, ram, porcupine.

Our one guide was from the snail contrada and their rivals are the turtles. Another guide we had was from the tower contrada and he took us into their church and museum. It was a really interesting look into their culture and it is so interesting how very passionate they are about their contrada.
 The Tower church - the contrada's horse is brought here to be blessed before the Palio. Yes, INTO the church.
 The tower and the elephant contrada were combined, which is why both figure in their banner.
Each contrada also has a fountain - this is the dragon contrada's. The fountain is where the secular baptism takes place and if the contrada wins the Palio they put wine in the fountain to celebrate!
I would love to be there during a Palio some day. They put clay down all around the Piazza del Campo, packing it over the cobblestones for the horse's protection.

This is the town hall. All around the edge of this Piazza is where the race is held and the area in the middle is where the people pack in. I could write an entire post just on what we learned about the Palio, but here's a video just to give you a little taste. It was hard to choose one that showed a quick overview. If you want, you can just search Palio on YouTube and there are a ton of videos.

You'll notice that there end up being riderless horses. According to the rules, it is the horse that wins, not the jockey. The jockeys are basically just paid to ride, they aren't connected to the contrada in any way. So a horse can win without a rider. Because of the tight turns, there are usually several horses without riders by the end.

Okay, enough contrada and Palio. On to something new!

The Duomo in Siena is absolutely gorgeous. We were also allowed to take pictures inside, so here's a few of my favorite shots both in and out.

 I love the way that window reflects the clouds. Love it.

 Breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking. The arches and the painting and everything. I love the black and white marble.

 I don't know what it is about stained glass windows, but I'm always fascinated with them!
 The dome from the inside.
I look so small! The pink and white and green marble is just gorgeous!

I think that's it for today. Come back tomorrow for the tale of our daytrip into Chianti and pictures of wine country. Probably my favorite day of our whole trip! Also, pictures of the prize pack (minus the owl because it is not made yet).

So to enter today, leave a comment on this post and let me know which contrada you think you would like to be a part of!

And if you didn't check out yesterday's post take a look and leave a comment there too. I had so much fun learning a little bit more about all of you!


Marebabe said...

Well, having perused the list of 17 contrade, I couldn’t help noticing that the majority are named after animals. (I’ll bet there’s a fascinating history lesson behind each one!) I considered all the different animals first, weighing pros and cons. (I like owls, EXCEPT for the way they have to barf up “owl pellets” as part of their digestive process. *shudder*) Anyway, of all the animals, I felt most drawn to the eagle and panther, because they’re, like, y’know, majestic and stuff. But I kept returning to the forest in my mind. I love forests, having spent time in several – redwoods, pine, aspen, Olympic rainforest, even the little wooded area on our property in Upstate Kansas – and there’s a peacefulness and beauty that can’t be found anywhere else. So, without having actually inspected the Tuscan real estate or met any of the neighbors, I would choose FOREST!

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

wow! Makes me wish i had visited Sienna! I found the contrade fascinating, and now i feel i'll need to do some research on them for my italian inspired fantasy i'm writing for NaNo 2011

Marebabe said...

Hey! Here's a link I just found among the Sense of Place contest pictures at National Geographic.


I didn't realize that the riders were all riding bareback. That explains how so many manage to fall off their horses before the end of the race!