Il Palio – La Contrada di Valdimontone
Siena is known also for its yearly and ancient horse race il Palio. Today we were very privileged to visit the winning team for 2012 “the rams” or “il Monton”. Their own museum which highlights their costumes and winning “drapadons” or murals is a step back in time.
I guess I have watched the flag throwing ceremony and the unusual horse race around the “Campo” on television but never really understood its significance. To understand this, one must first understand the division of the old town and the ancient “contradas”. There are seventeen contradas. One is born into a Contrada and remains within it for life. Some of the animal symbols and plaques are, the Ram, the Snail, the Giraffe, the Owl, the Shell to name a few. Each have their distinctive color combinations – a bit like footy teams!
The race is held every year in July and August and the winning team’s Mural must include an image of the Feast of the Assumption in the top quarter of the mural. The July win depicts the half bust of the Madonna while the August winner depicts her entire image. Given that the first race was run on 15 August, 1637, it had a vast history. Check it out the photos.
The museum is housed in a deconsecrated church still resplendent with giant murals and immaculately curated. We compared the “Rams” riding costumes over the ages and a replica of the nineteen team members. This passion for their colours and history rivals that of our own AFL. Many of our group also want to join in the passion by getting some colours of the Montone. The preservation of these artifacts is inspiring and very noble.
Tonight we are invited to the celebration dinner – one of many post race celebrations that have been held since they last won in 1990. Apparently men walk around with dummies in their mouth to show they are reborn in the Contrada – likely to take off in Aussie – but you never know.