I closed the last post by saying that the world of the Siena contradaioli (the members of the various contrade) is almost entirely focused on the two days a year on which there’s a horse race, which today is referred to as the Palio, or in Italian, “Il Palio.” Now it’s time to learn more about the Palio itself.
Siena, Italy, is a city with two personalities: a successful modern culture layered onto a rich, storied medieval foundation that functions today much as it did 800 years ago. I love it, and recently returned from a visit there to experience the crazy bareback horse race known as the Palio. There’s so much to talk about that I’m planning to divide my story into two blog posts; this one will tell the background story, and the next will cover the Palio itself.
A long history, in brief
Historians tell us that Etruscans founded Siena a few hundred years B.C., and then the Romans arrived in the first century B.C. But that’s a little dry and the legend contains more intrigue: it holds that Siena was founded by Senio and Ascanio, sons of Remus and nephews of Romulus, the founder of Rome. Romulus murdered his brother, whose sons then fled Rome. The twins took a statue of the she-wolf suckling the infants Romulus and Remus, made the symbol their own, and founded Siena; today, these statues are seen all over town.
I have fallen in love. His name is Ruchè (roo-KEH). He lives in the northwest of Italy, in the area known as Piemonte (Piedmont in English).
But before I divulge the details, let’s go first to the beginning of the day when it all happened, when I was awakened in the early morning by a crashing storm that brought loud thunder and pounding rain. I had thought I might arise early, and go for a walk to explore the little hilltop town of Castagnole Monferrato before breakfast. But the dark skies and the pouring rain helped me make the decision to stay in bed and sleep a little longer. Thunder gets my pulses going, but steady rain lulls me to sleep.
Happy summer solstice! We’ve progressed from a long, wet spring to a somewhat less wet, warmer season. The summer solstice is days away, and I’ve been out exploring a few corners of the region.
A trip to the beach
First stop: Gruissan, on the Mediterranean coast south of Narbonne. This area is all about life next to the sea. There’s an ancient fishing village, with small picturesque cabanes de pêcheurs (fishermen’s huts), some now used for holiday rentals, plus tantalizing fresh fish stands. Just around the bend are the salt flats where salt is still produced in the old way, by hand. There are long, beautiful beaches with cabins on stilts (1,300 of them!). All along the water’s edge you can find places to pick up fresh oysters and other seafood. And if all that isn’t enough, there’s a round medieval tower named for the pirate Barbarossa.
We strolled around the site of the old fishermen’s huts at Étang de l’Ayrolle:
For a number of years, I’ve been writing a mostly-monthly newsletter and sending it via email to my private list of photography customers, friends, family, and other good folk who are interested in art and creativity. That newsletter was named Lo Vedo Art News, for my Etsy-based photography business, Lo Vedo Art. “Lo Vedo” is Italian for “I see it,” which pretty much covers how I approach photography.
But a while back, I decided to expand the focus (pun intended). While I will continue to write about art and my own photography, I’m also expanding the definition of creativity to cover my own experience living a creative lifestyle in the South of France. You will now see posts about food (with occasional recipes), hiking and the natural world, history, and stories about living a new life in a very old place with old customs that are new to me.
Bienvenue, and welcome to Lo Vedo Life!*
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It has taken longer than I imagined it would to get this blog going, but ta da! Here we are!
SEEING RED. I wrote the last post a month ago, and I’m happy to report that the poppies have been eye-popping this spring. I’ve never seen anything like this show they’ve been giving us, and it just keeps going. We have had a rainy and cool spring, and the poppies appear to be quite pleased about that. A short distance from Bize, there’s a field that I drive past nearly every day. It has looked like this for about three weeks: