We’d driven the entire day. At noon we’d stopped in an old town along the road and bought some cheese and meat from a small shop within the village. It was entirely made of stone and thus the heat was kept outside. The village had been located upon a hill and walking to its top in the summers heat didn’t make it any easier. Then, after driving a few more hours, we’d arrived at the house that was ours for the next two days. It only had one floor which was typical for houses in southern Italy and the windows in the back of the living room lead to an inner courtyard with a fountain and an overwhelming view of the surrounding scenery.
Monday, August 15th
After going for a stroll within the property, we drove down to the nearest city, Siena. It wasn’t a coincidence that we arrived on this exact day. The Italian horse race, Palio, the hardest one of its kind, was set to start the next day and so the preparations where fully going on. The race track which was located within the city and consisted of a huge market place was decorated and wooden stages were torn up in front of the houses that bordered the place. People everywhere talked about the race and the rivalling teams, one for each district of the city, showed their support with flags and banners.
The entire city had been decorated and it seemed as if the tension was reflected through the heat shimmer that could be seen in every of the city’s alleys. We continued to walk through the city, the heat had slowly begun to settle down again, and decided to make our way back to the property, as the afternoon mood had made us lazy. Beforehand we bought some more food, among which were some deliciously ripe figs.
After having eaten I sat down in the inner courtyard and read a book in the setting summer sun, my mouth still tasting the fig’s overwhelming sweetness. As there was no more natural light available and the lanterns hanging from the house’s ochre walls weren’t bright enough to allow me to continue reading, I went back inside. Soon I fell asleep on my designated sleeping place. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.
Tuesday, August 16th
The sunrays shining through the window’s shutters warmed my face and slowly made me wake up. The air smelled of fresh fruits, warm stone and olive trees which surrounded the area. We had some breakfast, packed our bags as we would spend the entire day in Siena and walked to the car. Upon arriving to the city, more and more cars could be seen parking on the boardwalk, it seemed as if the Palio had attracted far more visitors and spectators as we’d expected.
The decorations had become even more than the day before, flags were hanging out of almost every window, showing the house’s affiliation to a specific district. People were dressed in according colours and the more we got into the city center, and thus closer to the market place, the more crowded and louder it got. Typical Italian chants could be heard from every corner, groups of people were motivating bystanders to join them. Parades were making their way through the crowds, followed by dozens of children who seemingly adored the spectacle. The tension now almost seemed to be within reach, just like the heat.
At exactly 07:13 pm the race started. Moments before the gunshot announced it, the complete city was silent. Nobody was saying a word and all the eyes were focussing on the racers and their horses. Two older man next to me were making their last bet, all while never leaving the horses out of sight. Following the gunshot, everybody began to cheer and to encourage their district, the masses were chanting again, people were clapping and children screaming. Everybody followed the horses making their way along the race track. Until, only a few minutes later, the winner entered the finishing line.
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