Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Horsing around in Italy

I was in Italy for the last few days. I saw the Palio in Siena, which was truly spectacular. Three laps of the Campo around which ten horse riders, from 17 of the cities districts or Contrada ride barebacked, in a mad race to be victorious for their people.

The emotions on display where utterly raw, with tears of despair and joy on the faces of all those involved, the winning jockey paraded aloft after the race, and celebrations going on past 3am (when my friend and I gave up for the night…)

For days up to the event there is singing, parades, singing, horse-blessings, singing, and practice Palios, all making for 70 seconds of sheer drama and excitement.

Siena itself, Palio or not, is also a spectacular place, full of narrow cobbled streets and towering walls where shops and houses intermingle with ramshackle brilliance.

From there we went to Florence, where it was 35 degrees without a breath of wind which was almost unbearable, but we still took it all in. A lovely place, no doubt, but a bit more touristy than Sienna and probably mostly doable in two days.

We flew Ryanair, but in truth it was absolutely fine: what'd you'd expect for flights to Europe and back for £60. No service to speak of, but just take off and landing, all you really want from a two hour flight. When we landed in Pisa they played an celebratory trumpet burst (over the speakers, not the captain himself), which was a bit of fun. Because it is worth celebrating a landing, is it not?


Siany said...

As long as the landing celebrations do not involve clapping. I hate the clappers.

I spent three days in Florence a while back. I love it there. You could do it in two, but we spent half a day at the top of the Duomo (it's very very pretty, and I had a good book). You need four days to really enjoy it. Make sure you try and sneak into the Boboli Gardens just as they're closing :-)

Dan Worth said...

The trumpet did lead to some clappers, it's true.

Yes, three days probably better if you want to museum it all up etc, but I found it a bit too overtly tourist, too many over priced bars and eateries.

Siany said...

Did YOU clap? Are you a clapper, Dan?

I didn't set foot in a single museum :-) And only had one expensive meal (out of choice). Even the little pizza place we found by by the Duomo was cheap. *Might* be one of my most favourite places in the world.

Dan Worth said...

I am not a clapper no.

We went to the Ufitzzi, was enjoyable. Well, I liked Florence, obviously, but I'd have no desire to go back, really. Siena I would stop off in again if passing near the place, but not Florence.