As the day of the race draws nearer,the horses are selected,with trial runs at night. Suspense begins to mount with the running of the trials which have a religious intensity. Each day the city gets more crowded, thicker with spectators,more balconies are draped with banners and bold splash of colour. Jockeys are cheered on by members of the retinues that follow them,singing contrada anthems and urge their horses to victory.
The horses are blessed before the jockeys,indicating the degree of sceptisicm about human consistency in this ritual,which is marked by complex financial agreements between jockeys and those loyal to them.
In the parade that precedes the actual event,files of men dressed in brilliant velvet costumes and renaissance wigs,walk by the zebra-striped cathedral and squeeze down the ramped entrance to the campo,with drums and horns playing in the background,a nd circle the square,a slow measured ceremony that is an elegant prelude to the no-holds-barred race that follows.
When the bell on top of the tower begins to clang,the multitudes begin to roar. it must be similar to the noise experienced in the roman theatre when the first lions bounded in,i imagine. one by one,groups from each contrada appear,dressed in brilliant costumes and with musical accompaniment and pages,horsemen dressed as knights in tunics,small boys linked with hundreds of laurel leaves,and the flags wavers whose skill and grace have unmatched elegance.
They flap and wave,fluttering and crackling this way and that way,passing them under their backs,in and out of their legs,ending up with - the splendid trick called 'sban dierata' when they throw them up high in the air like flaming torches,one to another,while the crowd roars ballistic. The air is electric,there is a vibration i have never experienced before,a delirium of sorts, then the great painted wooden chariot,pulled by enormous slow white oxen arrive,carrying The Silken Flag of the Virgin,that will be given to the victor.
There is not a single centimetre of room on the square. every seat in the bleachers is full when shade falls across the square in the golden light of sunset,and the tower casts a shadow like the hand of a giant sundial,and the horses finally appear,prancing stylishly to the starting line,leaping about while the jockeys grab their fearsome 'nerbi',tough small whips that are more likely to be used on each other than on their horses.
BANG ! The starter's torch meets the powder charge and the race is on as the crowds go nuts with frenzy. After less than two minutes bare horses and tough jockeys racing with abandon,it is suddenly over and the victorious contrada members stream onto the track,surround the horse,scoop up the jockey,shower him with hugs and kisses and carry him off in triumph.
Simply an astounding experience that i would recommend you not to miss.
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.