15 August 2010
Destination Siena was on the cards for today but before getting there we headed down to Assisi to tour about and visit St Francis cathedral. We managed to park in the park that was furtherest from the cathedral but it did mean that we were able to get a good look from one end of town to the other weaving in and out of little streets and walkways. We were slightly worried when the walk to the cathedral was all downhill and the sun was beating down on us with ever increasing heat, Bazz did notice that there was a few bus stops on the way down, no sign of buses but could be a back up if we were (or really the plus 55r's) too tired or hot. We demolished a few slices of Pizza for lunch on the go and we headed back to the car. In summary Assisi was worth a visit, a very spiritual ton ith plenty of churches to visit if you had enough time as well as being able to sit through a Mass would have been special if we again had more time up our sleeve, as well as energy. We were driving out of Assisi, gals in one car, boys in the other. I noticed Bazza unnecessarily had Terry's back window wiper on and went to text him about it, lucky I did as realised I didn't have my phone. Phew, we were only 2 minutes outside of Assisi so we whipped back to the camp ground, managed to pull out some good charades, mixed with a bit of Italian and English and was able to communicate that I had left my phone and bingo bango she had it waiting at reception, BOOM! Back on the road. We have all been very lucky as so far on thistrip we have lost and reclaimed/found 2 wallets, 1 iphone, 1 cellphone, 1 camera and nearly Terry with Bazza leaving the keys in the door!! On route to Siena, non stop, no problem and found our accommodation - a motor home style cabin, 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, kitchen, and a great deck area. You know what this means Grace said - cook up mmmm! The camping ground had a pool too, campervan and tenting facilities a bloody boomer alright. Bus stops right outside that took you to the centre of town, a great looking bar and a restaurant that we would try out later! We dumped our stuff and then boarded the bus to town to have a recky and check out the horse trial, before the actual bi-annual Palio race tomorrow night. (Note - check out this clip on You-tube from the Palio - they race twice a year once n July and once in August in the main piazza (square) in Siena. This popular, and emotion stirring f has existed since before 1310 when it was ruled that every year on August 16 the event would be held in honour of the assumption of Mary into heaven. It wasn't until 1656 that they introduced the second Palio to beheld on the 2nd of July in honour of Madonna of Provenzano. The race is between the Siena Contrade or districts. There are 17 districts which have maintained the same boundaries since 1729. Only 10 Contrades take part in each Palio, with Contrades taking turns. This is based on the previous race with the seven who were excluded in the previous race now taking part in the next one and the other three are decided by lot from among the previous Palio's participants. The streets were filled with people, most wearing the scarves from their respective contrades and often singing what must have been songs from their own contrade, challenging each other with who could sing the loudest. We walked into the piazza which now resembled a race track around the outer of the piazza of about 8m wide, made out of cla dirt which gets trucked in for the race. All the restaurants around the piazza had grandstands in front, with seats being sold for €200.00 and rooms above being let out for €500.00 per head to watch the Palio from. The piazza wasn't too full so we did a lap of the track, which had been wet recently and Mum and Dad both nearly skidded over but they regained their balance in time! We decided to soak up some atmosphere and do some people watching at a street side bar and have a few pints. We over ordered and ended up with too many pints, which at that point we were happy about but later realised what a mistake it was. . . We split up -half went in search of some cold beers to take away the other half in search of sammies or snacks then meet up to get a spot in the piazza in which we would view the trial Palio from (they have about 5 trials over the week leading up to the real deal. We decided we would plop ourselves on the highest side of the piazza in the shade and test it out for tomorrow. We sucked back about 7 big bot heinekins between four of us in te hour leading up to the race, which ended up running about 20minutes late anyway and as thy block of all restaurants and access points to the piazza e had to hold on for quite some time - hence why all this beer was not a good idea!!! The atmosphere was awesome and the piazza soon packed in a 15 - 20,000 strong crowd. They also had a cannon going off at random times which was hard to predict and we found ourselves getting a bit of a right at times (worse than Davey boys at St Omer!!!). The police did a lap on their horses in old style kit and then as they were going into their second lap, us thinking oh here we go this will take forever, they charged up the horses galloping at full speed swords pointing and a fierce look on thier faces, it was awesome and then they whipped out the side of the piazza into what we guess must have been a long lane to pull up the horses. The horses filed in and were called up to the ropes and before we knew it they wee underway. The do about 3 full laps, riding bare back mind you and from our spot we were able to gt glimpses in certain spots of the horses and riders. As it was a trial we could see that not all horses went full pace so we were even more excited about the real palio tomorrow.As soon as the first horse crosses the finish line, people were over the fence and crowding the winner, Grace and I were also swiftly over the fence but we were going nearly as fast as the horses in the race in search of a WC as we were nearly bursting. Grace begged a lady a a restaurant to let us use theirs as we could not find the public one, oh relief!! We knew we had to rectify our game plan for tomorrow! We walked back through the packed streets to the bus stop taking in the atmosphere that was surrounding us and the anticipation that was building for D-day tomorrow. We were packed in like sardines on the us but we managed to get the right one to the right stop and arrived back at camp. We decided with the success of the camping ground dinner at Assisi we would try out the restaurant here, and we were not disappointed. Our waitress spoke god English, menu was reasonable so most of us decided we would treat ourselves to some meat - 3 ordered steaks, 1 wild boar and 1 salmon pasta. Carafe fulls of red vino and we were even given some cocktail as an after dinner treat. Tummies full and happy chapies we slinked away into our cabin and into bed, preparing for game day.
16 August 2010
The Palio!! Bazza the Beast and racey Gacey shot of to the supermarket and purchased some stuff to make our own breakfast - Grace and SI were on cooking dutiesand despite being low o utensils etc they overcame obstacles demonstrated problem solving abilities and served up toast, eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, grilled tomatoeswith fresh juice - oooh la la - Bonnecimo!! We didn't quite do things the right way around this morning as after we had demo'd that we all - minus Mitch aka Bazza went for a swim in the pool. It was refreshingly cooler than the Medarterrainian. A quick change, packed some chairs and Grace with the ol cowboy hat on (what a campaingner) we headed to the bus. We had a bit of a look at the shops on the way to the piazza -made a purchase of some leather wedge heels on sale - and carried on through to check out the square as we knew that there would be a lot more people saving thier spot for the race tonight that there was for the trial last night and we had to weigh up our plan and calculate our strategy - one of those already planned was less beer and brought some camp chairs for the 2 in our group with poor hips, no need to mention who they were actually in all fairness we ended up rotating them to rest our feet and our sore boney bottoms from the concrete. After assessment of the situation, and knowing we had to be in the square by 5pm anyway as they close all but 1 access, (which in actual fact appeared to close at 4:30pm with no further entry to the middle so you had to be on the ball alright!!) it was 2:30pm and we decided to set up shop - approx 5 hours before the race was due to start! Grace and Si went in search of ice, beer and snacks/sandwiches, Mum went shopping and in search of a latte and Dad and I space saved for the first shift. This was really the only shift as people started trying to take over our space so when they arrived back that was that. We chilled or beer in our cooley bag and drank it a lot slower than the previous day which worked wonders for the heat, thirst and bladders! Again the cannons were going off and they seemed louder than the previous day. Dad thought that he had perfected the timing of them but we soon realised he had no idea when he sat with his fingers in his ears for 10minutes and gave up. Simon got one hell of a fright, he was standing up observing his surroundings with a newly poured beer(only ½ a pint) and then BOOM! Next thing, me some other chick and some Americans were covered in beer, he jolted it right up as he got a fright, classic they all laughed but Simon went thirsty as he didn't have much beer left in his cup after that! Time ticked by but we had plenty to look at, especially afterwe heard a lot of a whistling going on - no not Christine Buchannan (NZ's best whistler), we looked up and right across from us, first floor windows who do we see . . . none other than STING!!!! Boom so we were Sting watching for a while. We were treated to another lap by the police on their horses and then a 2 hour medieval parade of flag tossing, trumpeting and drumming! One of the last flag throwers threw his a bit of skew and it landed in the crowd. He reached in and pulled it out, but next thing the medical staff were running in, then calling for a stretcher and took a lady across the track. The family followed and then 10 minutes later they backed up an ambulance!!! Unbelievable!! The trophy gets redesigned each Palio by a different artist and this was the last in the parade to be displayed. It was pulled on a medieval cart by four MASSIVE oxen, I have never seen an animal apart from and elephant, this big, they were enormous!! Finally the horses and riders came in, all very seriously. They were each called forward to the line. From the little we could see and later on replays there was a lot of argy bargy going on at the line which resulted in 6 false starts then finally they were off! Again the race was over in a matter of seconds and more exciting than the trial. Flags up, people onto the track straight after, the winner trying to protect himself and horse until the horse handler dude fetched the horse off him, then he was lifted in the air and taken to the trophy! We watched some of the after match and then found a restaurant off the square to have tea. By the time we returned to the piazza all the restaurants had overtaken the track with dining tables, was hard to imagine the square only 60minutes earlier packed with 20,000 people and horses racing round to a piazza surrounded b people quietly eating and reflecting on the race. Up on the streets we were greeted by te winning towns people parading he streets chanting their songs and waving their flags with one had on their hips, was pretty cool to witness!! Once again we nailed it with the buses arrived just as one pulled up and even scored a seat on the packed bus. Home for another gander at the replay and then we shimmied into bed ready to head to Florence via San Gimgiano.