The Palio in Siena is not what it seams to be at first glance, a historical horse race around a square. Think again. It’s a complicated intricate passionate game of deceit, bribery, skill and luck spanning months of preparation and years of savings. Alliances are forged, sabotage is planned, thousands are spend. It’s a game that divides and unites the people of Siena, a Tuscan city flooded by tourists where tradition still runs strong.
Italy is playing the final of the European Championship against Spain. No one is watching, only tourists. The Sienese are preoccupied with something else, something far more important. Tomorrow is the final day of the Palio Provenzano. This calls for a celebration. Headed by the captain and the infantino from Sardinia, who will ride the horse, the streets are filled with tables with fellow contradioli. Wearing the bandiera with the symbol of a snail and the colors red and yellow of their contrada, the Chiocciolla are enjoying an extended meal of several courses. Italy looses 0-4. Spain humiliates the country. Nobody seems to care. The people are not talking about soccer, they talk about horses, jockeys and wine.
The scene is filled with anticipation. People are singing, drinking, speculating about the race to come. Who has the best odds? Who will carry the banner of the Palio to the church of Provenzano and honor the virgin Mary. Will it be Onda, the district of the Wave, who drew Ivanov a very experienced horse? Did they save enough money? Or will it be the other very good contender Bruco’s Mississippi, the horse of the Caterpillar, that crosses the finish line first? Who will buy out who? Maybe the young horse Nestore De Aighenta will surprise everybody to win the race for the Chiocciolla, against all odds? No deal, no money can totally predict the game. The corners are treacherous, the track around the Piazzo del Campo is steep and unpredictable. The tufo might not be evenly spread. Everything can change in an instant.