In their aqua suits,Volunteer Vets and Vet Techs (I THINK that’s what their badges said) are a colorful group, and watchful. I saw one injury, and it wasn’t to a horse: because the Mossiere (Starter) hesitated for a second when he dropped the <canape, to signal the start of the race, 2 of the jockeys flew over the heads of their horses. A minute later, several Misericordia (EMT) pushed passed me with one of the jockeys: a broken finger! These professional bareback-riders are slight, steely-eyed men, and while the broken finger kept out the contrade of Chiocciola’s rider this morning, everybody expects him back for tonight’s Prova.

The Mossiere (Starter):
√ He will be the only person in the Campo not to watch the race. As soon as he drops the canape – it could take several minutes or an hour to get a “Fair Start” – he will be immediately escorted out of the Campo by Polizei, then driven from the city. As people here say, “He’ll be at the city walls by the time the race ends!”

Although still something of an exercise in futility, the occasional video is the best way share Palio. CONTEXT:
The canon goes off 4 times:
√ to call the horses from their contrada stall (17 contrade, 17 stalls…also 17 churches, 17 museums, 17 fountains, but I digress).
√ to signal the clearing of the track: hawk-eyed polizei and tireless track-sweepers (mostly women, this year) stride onto and around the racecourse; once the track is cleared of people and debris, the contrade capitani and the mossiere walk to the starting line.
√to call the horses and jockeys from the inner courtyard of the Palazzo Pubblico.
√ to announce the end of the race: a winner has been declared.
Having heard the first canon, we ran to the Campo and arrived with the horses (and their jockeys and trainers); I was standing idly by, when the next signal boomed.
(this one’s really more for listening than viewing!)

These moms and kids from the contrada of Tortuga have some the best seats in the house!

After the Prova, sprayers and tampers go to work, preparing for the next one.


“PALIO” refers, first of all, to the banner which the winning contrada will claim after the race on Monday. This year’s palio is an homage to St Francis of Assisi, with a realistic image of his much-mended habit. The palio must always include a portrait of the Virgin (top-left corner, this year), as the race is run in her honor – July for the Visitation, August for the Assumption. In addition, it must present the black and white insignia of the city, as well as the symbols plus colors of the 10 contrade (of the city’s 17) racing.
This year, the 10 symbols are sewn into an olive tree (top, just under the black and white colors of Siena): Tartuca, Selva, Onda, Aquila, Chiocciola, Bruco, Drago, Nicchio, Giraffa, and Leocorno.
I snapped this photo last week, during the palio’s unveiling at the press conference in the courtyard of the Palazzo Pubblico.


Roads Less Travelled

Siena is fantastically warm, mostly with Palio fever: processions, parades, drummers, flag-tossers. Then there are the drawings: for the horses, for the race positions,all of them with that uber-exuberance of the various contrade. I mean, I’m breathless just listing what goes on day and night, and of course I haven’t mentioned the construction. To our NEH group: the bleachers are going up around the Campo, the mattresses are already tied up along the S. Martino curve. We think the dirt for the track will start arriving any day.

The current freneticism of Siena is in glorious juxtaposition to countless places we’ve visited in the past couple of months. We’ve so often been the only ones in a museum, chapel, church, or road, that it’s been like owning the world, or at least a part of it, for awhile.




Breakfast is anytime between 6 (at the apartment) and 8 (on the Campo). Nothing beats getting the best table for cappuccini on the greatest piazza in Italy. Except for those first souvenir stalls rolling in, the place is empty.

When we walked to the bus station one morning, the sidewalk artist was just measuring out his section of sidewalk; we found his chalk “Girl With the Pearl Earring” nearly finished when we returned in afternoon.

Leonardo is in the Cypresses, don’t you think?

We’ve spent time in several hilltowns: Montalcino,Cortona,Pienza, Radicofani,Volterra; at some point during a trek through each one, a top-of-the-world view like this one from Montepulciano appears and more or less nudges my camera out of its case.

We were at Brother Jerome’s place in Vicchio a few days ago.
Alone in the kitchen, Ann is considering what to prepare for breakfast. Eventually, we “prepared” by getting Jerome to take us into town for a morning coffee/pastry.

One of the highlights of our visit was meeting Jerome’s current assistant, young artist, William Massey

In the afternoon, he demonstrated the most recent lesson he’d learned from Jerome.

***************************** POLAND *******************************

We also recently visited Brother Milton in Krakòw, an incredible city worth a re-visit. I took some photographs at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and if you’ve been there, you’ll understand why I won’t be posting any pictures here. Even after years of studying and reading Holocaust literature, I was unprepared for the sheer scale of it all.
Seventy-plus starkly empty chairs in Krakòw: among other things, the monument represents the furniture tossed out of windows and doors by Jews who were being driven from their homes to wait for the trains to Auschwitz and other camps. Just over 56 thousand Jews were living in Krakòw before the war; our guide told us there are now “about 300.”

Returning that evening from Auschwitz to Krakòw, I passed this sign and wondered about the history of the club.

Once again back in Siena, we continue to visit the Campo in the late afternoons: Campari Spritz, very fine.

QUESTION: How do we know this father is Italian?
ANSWER: He talks with his hands!

One day

One day.