Ninety seconds in Siena
We flew to Italy for a week of relaxation as the UK was taking it’s toll on us 🙂 . Good old Ryan air got us there and back for 90 pounds each . We landed in Pisa and had booked a room for the night .On arrival at the property the woman said there had been a PROBLEM ( F*ck) oh dear I thought 😉 BUT not to worry we had been up graded to a swanky hotel which was better than we had booked . We headed off to get a photo of the leaning tower but it was useless , thousands of tourists milling about so we went for something to scoff and had a little tipple and a wobble back to the room . The next morning I was out by 5.30am to snap a photo at sunrise …Not a soul in sight … took the photo and grabbed two large chocolate pastries H was very happy to see me 🙂
A quick and easy train ride brought us to Poggibossi , jumped in a taxi and arrived in the medieval historic town of San Gimignano. Perched on a hill over looking rural Tuscany , it is famous for it’s impressive towers. It was rammed in the day with tour guides , but retained a charm in the evening with lovely rustic restaurants. San Gimignano has a great Torture chamber exhibition with the most graphic bone chilling descriptions of every piece of equipment they used. If these things were used today there would be much less crime and social problems Guaranteed. We spied a bottle of Grappa and had a glass or two before we went out . It reminded us of a wild night in Dubrovnik with friends , but we choose not to over indulge.
Next we hopped on the train again and landed in Siena for the Il Palio. We had been here before ,but narrowly missed the world famous horse race. We had booked a place at the city wall and it turned out to be a hidden gem. Al Tuscany is run by a family which own a 15th Century huge palatial house. The walled city was buzzing in anticipation of the big day , but rain had postponed the race scheduled for Sunday. We had to book another night and our host made sure we kept our room as there is no where to stop if not booked in advance. Monday morning we got to the Il Campo ( main square where the race takes place) at 9am we picked our spot next to the fence inside of the course. Its free to stand inside the square to watch the race and between 350 -500 euro’s to sit on the seats around the outside. The race takes 90 seconds as they career around the square 3 times bare back on horses with only a bridal and a whip. There is one rule ..first rider past the post on a horse wins .. kicking punching whipping and pulling your opponents off their horses is allowed. So at 9am we only had another 10 hours and 30 mins to wait for the 90 second race. Over the day the square filled up and is closed off completely at 6pm when 60 thousand people have been crammed in. Luckily we still had access to beer and pizza which managed to sustain us JUST 🙂
At 7pm the atmosphere was intense ,then it hit me … the Italian HUM .. B.O and the heat of sixty thousand people I will never forget , for H it will be the 10.5 hour wait 🙂 . The horses then lined up and after a few false starts they were off , the roar of the crowd was deafening and an electric atmospheric buzz could be felt. 90 seconds later a canon went off and the race was over and the race tracked was invaded by members of the supporting contradas ( sections of the city) . A huge fight broke out and spilled into the crowd which we hastily managed to steer away from. My parting memory of the palio was seeing the umbrella that we had shielded ourselves from the sun all day, being thrown like a spear into the crowded square. We survived the palio …. JUST….. and we had a hearty boar stew and a few bottles of wine to calm our nerves 🙂 .. We spent our last night in Lucca before leaving from Pisa the next day .. BUT we will both remember the 90 seconds in August for a very long time and for different reasons 🙂