Inspiration always seems to find me when I’m not looking and that is exactly what happened as I settled in to watch a few minutes of television last night. Lucky for me, I clicked over to Kenny Mayne’s Wider World of Sports, a show on ESPN that puts sports into a cultural context.
One of the segments was on the Palio, the famous, twice-yearly horse race in Siena. Mayne gained insider access to the Leocorno (Unicorn) contrada to cover the race from mane (ahem) to tail. We learn about Leocorno’s rivalry with the Civetta (Owl) contrada, the pre-race ritual of having the horse blessed in the district church, and the strategies and intrigue that go into competing in one of Italy’s oldest sports traditions. Both the footage and the commentary in this segment were compelling, so I wanted to share the video with you.
Fantastic stuff, Mr. Mayne. Mille grazie!
Contrada Leocorno won the second round of this year’s Palio. So they will have bragging rights until next July. Auguri!
By the way, some spectators at the August 16 event noticed that Daniel Craig (the new James Bond) was in attendance. According to UPI, the Palio will be featured in the 22nd installment of the James Bond franchise. What a surprise that such a world famous race hasn’t been filmed for a Bond (or Bourne) film already…
If you missed Siena’s Palio horserace, held on July 2, you are not out of luck. The Contrada dell’Oca, the winner of the first of this year’s races, has the rest of the summer to enjoy its win. Then, on August 16, crowds will again fill Piazza del Campo for another running of the horses. For more information about the event, here’s a useful Palio FAQ.
*Post Update (7/7/07): A reader sent in a link to his site which has very cool photos and footage from this year’s Palio, as well as tons of information about the event (in Italian). Check out http://ilpaliodisiena.splinder.com. It’s also worthwhile to take a look at the many Palio perspectives on Flickr. Enjoy!