The 2021 edition of the Palio dei Somari leaves us five things that are nothing more than five reasons to come and see it live as soon as possible
Another edition of the Palio dei Somari in Torrita di Siena has gone, it was exactly the 64th. With the victory of the district of Porta Nova, which was the first to cross the finish line of the Gioco del Pallone, winning the race for the 12th time, a special edition of the historic Torritese Palio closes. This was certainly a special edition due to the completely extraordinary date: the Palio infact must be held on the Sunday following March 19th, St. Joseph’s day, to which the event or “festival” is dedicated as its original name wants; moreover, it also was a special edition because it is the first edition after a year of stop which, however, did not slow down the community spirit of the Torritesi.
Indeed, this forced break has fueled even more the desire of the districts to take to the streets with their own colors and relive the best days of the year albeit the different season.
We believe that this edition has left something more than the others, both for those who experienced it and for those who have never seen it or have never heard of it and that will certainly have to remedy it as soon as possible in March 2022, emergencies permitting. Let’s find out what Palio gave us together.
Drums are not just drums
If in the rest of the world “the swallows make Spring”, in Torrita di Siena it is not like that. Here the arrival of Spring is accompanied by the drums that resound in the air from the end of January, then the sound becomes more intense in the first half of March. A real snare drum march echoes from the historic center to the neighboring villages and marks the days that separate Torrita from the Palio. It is difficult not to realize it if you are in Torrita, as in the first months of the year every place is good to test the parade show that will take to the streets on the Saturday of the race, between flag-wavers and drummers (the climax of the Saturday before the race). If you have ever talked to a Torritese about the Palio at least once, he will tell you “When you hear the sound of the drums after dinner it means that the Palio is approaching. That sound may also be annoying for someone but it makes us Torritesi feel less alone. It is like it stands by us. ” And so it is. The drums in Torrita are not just drums and the thrill of hearing them again after a year within the walls of the historic center made an entire community vibrate in emotion.
The procession is not a joke
The historical procession of the Palio dei Somari is a serious matter. On the morning of the Palio, Torrita wakes up in the fifteenth century and within the walls of the ancient medieval castle you will meet ladies, princes, armed men and pageboys. To amaze you there are the clothes, which faithfully reflect, both in the fabric and in the models, the fashion of the first decades of the 1400s and are sewn directly from the districts. The historical costumes are superbly worn by the district members, sometimes betrayed by a veil of emotion, because wearing the colors of your own district is a real honor for Torritesi. Returning to admire the procession after a year’s stop has certainly brought attention to the importance of beauty which we cannot live without.
An infinite passion for the art of the flag and the drum
It is no coincidence that the motto of the Sbandieratori and Tamburini Group (flag wavers and drummers), the association that promotes the art of the flag and the drum thanks to a school for the youngest ones, is “Passion without end”. The flag wavers and drummers in Torrita have never stopped trying their show even when the possibility of taking to the streets was not so obvious. On Saturday, in fact, if any of you have been to the Gioco del Pallone – this was also a completely extraordinary location, the flag-wavers and drummers competition is held in Piazza Matteotti – you surely noticed the trepidation of the flag-wavers and drummers of the eight districts who have returned to challenge each other after a year. There was a lot of anxiety both in their eyes and in those of the contradaioli who were there to support them because this, after the victory of the Palio, is certainly the most important prize. The eight quartets also gave a sensational show of drums and flags on this occasion, bringing the re-enactment to a very high level able to fascinate those who have always lived the Palio and those who came across it by chance on Saturday evening. From that appointment we all returned home more aware that behind a five-minute performance there is a creative work that lasts months and what the Torritesi have for drums and flags is not a simple passion: it is a genetic trait that characterizes only those who live here. If you’ve never seen it, this is definitely one of those appointments to mark on your list.
Returning to the donkey race has rekindled a little hope in the hearts of all the Torritesi. To characterize the Palio di Torrita, in fact, is the race of donkeys, strong and stubborn animals and absolutely unpredictable ones, which the eight districts rely on to bring home the coveted cloth. So unpredictable that the outcome of the race, which at times may seem obvious, can overturn in the last few meters from the finish. Because donkeys are a peculiar animal, they decide how long to run, whether to go ahead or stop. But this is precisely the beauty of the Palio, that consists in its unpredictability that in the contradaioli turns into hoping that one’s contrada will be able to cross the finish line first. Coming to see the donkey race means being overwhelmed by a wave of discordant feelings that the public experiences firsthand: from laughter at the bizarre donkey races to tears of defeat or joy at best.
An authentic community
This is the most important thing that this edition of the Palio dei Somari gave us. After a year of hiatus, the Torritese community was rekindled by organizing an event with great attention to the smallest details, leaving nothing to chance (the historical period just does not allow it!) and putting all the love for this historical re-enactment in its 64th edition. These has been three days in which Torrita breathed a different air and not for a matter of weather, but of climate and human warmth. People have returned to the center of community life, each contributing to put his or her own effort in the realization of every event, details and staging of this much-attested prize. The same climate that continues to surprise those who have always lived the Palio and those who live it for the first time, remaining enraptured by it.
Photo credit – Palio dei Somari