PALIO fever

Hello! It has been well over a week since I last posted on this page as it has been a very busy one filled with one extraordinary experience after another, yet sprinkled with moments of absolute frustration at not understanding what I am doing in Italian class;) 
On August 16th,  I went with my classmates to the Palio and OH MY GOD it is hands down one of the most exciting events I have ever attended. The whole week leading up to it was filled with event after event, all in anticipation for a horse race lasting 90 seconds or less. The pageantry blew my mind. For instance, on Saturday there was a parade through the city and into the duomo that I thought was a big deal...but little did I know that yesterday for three hours before Palio started an even bigger parade would march through the city and into the Piazza del Campo. Only men participate in the parade, dressed in medieval costumes carrying (and throwing) flags, playing drums, wearing suits of armor, etc etc. This is serious business. The finale is four large cows pulling a medieval cart with the banner that is awarded to the winner of the Palio. 
The night preceding the parade, each contrada set up rows of tables throughout the city and they ate dinner together while singing, clapping and making merry. The energy was infectious. I walked around town that night absorbing the excitement and taking photos when I could. Even the kids were running around playing games after 11pm! 
After having our bags checked by the Polizia (the security was very tight and we could not bring water bottles into the piazza) we walked with a very tight crowd into the center of the Piazza del Campo where we stood for the next two hours watching the parade finish, and then of course the main event, the race. I had never been to a horse race before this and I was enthralled. There were two false starts, but when it began I was amazed with how fast they went...three laps around and it was finished. One of the jockeys was thrown off his horse...ouch. The winner was the contrada Lupa, and the people from that contrada ran screaming toward the winning horse and jockey in celebration. Then they did not stop singing and celebrating the rest of the night and are still going at this afternoon across the street from my window. They paraded through the piazza last night, then again this morning, dressed up in costume, playing drums and carrying their flags. The men put pacifiers in their mouths (I kid you not) as a sign of their victory, and wear them while marching through the city. It is a symbol of rebirth or something;) I do wish I could have captured these photos on a better camera, but these images give you an idea of the experience.

A provo (trial race) a few days before the Palio

A provo (trial race) a few days before the Palio