PALIO IS LIFE
At the moment of the last flag-waving procession, before the race, the sound of drums accompanying the flag-bearers lined up in front of Palazzo Pubblico, punctuates the heartbeat of each contradaiolo.
The "drappellone", a silk banner depicting Our Lady (the Virgin Mary), which will be given to the victorious contrada, has just finished its tour in the square on the “Carroccio” pulled by four magnificent white oxen of the Chianina race. This prize is about to be placed upon the stage of the Capitani, from which it will be removed, only at the end of the race, by the hands of the victorious contradaioli.
"Sunto", the bell tower of the Torre del Mangia, with its chimes has accompanied the entire "Historical Parade ", suddenly silence. The drums are silent, the chants of the contradaioli, which for four days have delighted the districts and the streets of Siena, have ceased, the "chiarine" are mute, and finally, the bell of the Carroccio is silent. The tension is beginning to skyrocket.
The “mortaretto” explodes, signaling the beginning of the race and the rhythm of the celebration reaches its highest level.
The horses come out of the “Entrone”: the one from my district, the Dragon, comes out first. Andrea Mari, known as "Brio", on the back of Rocco Nice, with his raised "nerbo" (a kind of whip), greets the members of his contrada.
Moments of tension, anxiety, excitement and eager anticipation for his position at the "canape" (a huge rope that is the starting line), which fate has already marked yet still remains jealously guarded in a sealed envelope, for a short time, still in the hands of the police, before being handed over to the "mossiere" (the starter).
An almost unreal silence descends into the square so much so that, unbelievably, from every corner you can clearly hear the distinct voice of the mossiere calling the districts in the order drawn.
Time begins to expand. Crowded in the mind, emotions of the near past (the four days of Palio just lived, characterized by a crescendo of hopes or perhaps illusions) and of a more remote one, which takes us back hundreds of years, to the origins of a celebration that remains the same over the centuries, and that manages to unite an entire city, only apparently divided into seventeen districts.
Memories come back from childhood when we played in the district and heard the stories of our elders: curious anecdotes in which everyone added something of his own, managing to turn simple episodes into legends; hours spent learning to fly the flag or playing the drum come to mind as well; and again, the first time to be dressed in the "comparsa" to march in the parade in the Piazza; even fond memories flood my mind of the first winning Palio, in my contrada, the Dragon, which I saw as a young man, at twenty years of age, as well as the long chats around the table about the horses and jockeys during the days of the race.
In a scenario where everything takes form, in spite of violent emotions felt in the square, harmony and proportion still reign.
At exactly the same moment when the sun is setting, it lights the square a shade of red; the most spiritual of colors, which gives the buildings, monuments and the protagonists of the race, a sense of heaviness, dignity, benevolence, and grace.
In a short time, I experience the personal joy of seeing Rocco Nice and Andrea Mari, called "Brio", arrive first at the "bandierino" (the finish line), followed by a feast of drums, colors, songs and hugs for the jockey, as well as, the victorious horse; a celebration that brought joy to all of us Dragaioli, and at the same time gathered an entire city together.