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Victory Parade

What an experience! This summer my husband and I were our own tour guides in Italy. We stayed in Florence for a few days, left the city and stayed outside San Gimignano in a small inn in the Tuscan hills. We traveled to small towns from there, using it as a base.

The day was warm to begin with and half way up, we found a neighborhood bar where we were able to get a cold fruit drink. The bartender told us that we missed quite a celebration the night before as their Contrada, De Orca, had finally won the Palio. We left the bar and continued our walk. We enjoyed the beauty of that sleepy town that was defiantly recovering from the festivities of the night before. Late in the afternoon I was in search of the home of St. Catherine of Sienna.

Soon a man appeared in the middle of the intersection. He was dressed in all green and white Renaissance-era tights, a green and white striped long sleeved belted top with a flared hem, and a soft cap. He was carrying a large banner which matched the ones flying above the street. The next thing I knew, another man, similarly dressed, arrived. He was drumming a complicated beat on his large drum. Those beats echoed up and down the cobbles and stone buildings in the neighborhood.

Spectators then arrived, carrying banners and wearing matching goose-covered scarves. Others opened windows above me and waved banners out of their windows. Also joining the first two men were other men of all ages dressed in like costumes carrying drums and banners. All of the drummers beat the same complicated sequence of beats that the leader beat. I would say that at least 100 men lined that intersection and spread out waving the banners and drumming what was now a deafening cadence.

Now for the odd part: All of the men marching in the parade and many of the spectators carried baby items. Men in their sixties and young boys in their teens sucked on pacifiers; others had baby bottles filled with liquid tied around their necks. They also sucked on the bottles while preparing for this parade. Still others had rattles and other small baby toys tied to their scarf or around their necks. Spectators also carried and used bottles, pacifiers, and rattles. The shop owner could only explain that they won the Palio. No one in the crowd could explain more. We watched as the men sucking on bottles and pacifiers marched up one street into Sienna. We could hear the drums long after we lost sight of the men and the banners.

We took a bus back to our car late that night and was not able to stop back at the bar to ask about this curious custom. Though some of the people who operated the inn had been to the Palio, they did not know about this custom.

Any help from you or your listeners would be appreciated. Enjoy listening to your program!




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