hold your horses

Its Italy. It runs by its own logic.This past week has seen a collision with the past present and future.  The priest blesses the horse, and then the Palio, the famous break-neck, bareback horse race around Siena’s main piazza takes place, the pope tweets on an i-pad, and Berlusconi claims Italian banks are in top shape while they are being downgraded stoking fears of a Greek potty. ….

A horse named Mississippi has won the famed Palio bareback horse race around Siena’s main piazza amid calls for an end to the dangerous sport after a horse died during a warmup race.Representing Siena’s L’Oca neighborhood, Mississippi took the lead about halfway through the nine horse contest Saturday. Three riders were thrown and at least one horse fell negotiating the piazza’s tight turns.The Palio was held despite calls for an end to the dangerous tradition after Messi, a 6-year-old bay, smashed into a barrier during a warmup race Friday night and died.http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2011/07/02/1667535/siena-runs-palio-despite-uproar.html

---After the tratta, all life in Siena is focused on the race. Six trial races are held so that the jockeys (race track professionals who receive astronomical sums from the contrade) can get to know their mounts. Locals say the fifth trial is the most dangerous day of all, because spectators can no longer control their emotions. This harrowing day is followed by a "dress rehearsal" dinner, where all the contrada members can practice the celebration they hope to repeat the following night. People spend the evening listening to complicated analyses of equine withers, the going prices for bribes, the duplicity of jockeys and the way in which all of these elements would combine to end Il Bruco's dry spell the next day. --- Read More:http://www.premier.net/~Italy/palio.htm image:http://www.boston.com/sports/blogs/bigshots/2009/07/italys_palio_di_siena_horse_ra.html

The controversial Palio is part of a cultural heritage on a city that has best preserved its medieval heritage, perhaps in all of Europe. After its conquest by Florence nearly five years ago, the Florentines were occupied with launching the Renaissance, and Siena was left to marinate as a backwater; poor country cousins and the walled portion of the city looks much as it did in the middle-ages. They say it is the town where every stone has remained the same throughout the centuries and the Festa del Palio is simply one of the traditions of the forefathers….

Elizabeth Renzetti:this week’s photographs of Pope Benedict XVI sitting in front of the company iPad, preparing to send his first tweet. In a video released by the Vatican, the Pope’s anxious advisers milled around him as his hand hovered over the screen (surely the first time in history that the Ring of the Fisherman and LOLcats have been in such close proximity).

Renzetti:The one thing the Catholic Church has always had going for it is the supernatural. Anybody who grew up in the bosom of the Roman faith knows about priests who sense hidden sin like truffle-hunting dogs, and nuns who can tell, from 50 metres away, if your skirt is one centimetre shorter than God's law allows. Mysticism, and a nice line in embroidered velvet frocks, is its strong suit. Sharing, not so much. Read More:http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/elizabeth-renzetti/are-you-there-god-its-me-benedict/article2082644/?service=mobile image:http://hothardware.com/News/Pope-Uses-iPad-2-to-Fire-Off-First-Tweet/

The historic papal tweet announced the Vatican’s new multimedia platform: “Dear friends, I just launched news.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.” It was hardly profound, but at least he refrained from using emoticons: Imagine that message punctuated with a tiny crown of thorns or a lurid, pulsing heart.

If you’ve ever tried to teach an 84-year-old how to use a computer, you’ll know that the fact he composed a coherent sentence without having a stroke is a certified miracle. The Vatican did not reveal the aftermath of the holy tweet, but I have a feeling that once his minions sidled out into the bright Roman sunshine, Benedict sat at his iPad and typed “Prada shoes summer sale” into the search window.

For this, of course, is how the whole social media snowball begins. For the moment, the Pope is happy to cyber-bless on the odd Sunday, but before you know it, he’ll be checking his status updates every couple of hours, posting pictures of Friday’s fish dinners and checking to see if the Dalai Lama still has more followers. Read More:http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/elizabeth-renzetti/are-you-there-god-its-me-benedict/article2082644/?service=mobile

---The horse of the Contrada of Wave and his jockey attend a blessing ceremony prior to compete in the Palio horseracing on July 2, 2010 in Siena. The Palio is a medieval horse race and pageant, which pits the ancient districts of Siena against each other in competition for the victory banner and in honor of the Virgin Mary. AFP PHOTO/ FABIO MUZZI

Read More:http://thestar.blogs.com/photodesk/2010/07/the-palio.html


The question is why the pope would use an i-pad. Is he concerned about all the personal information data tracking software? The Apple app store has a suspicious looking logo that resembles Masonic iconography…

…The city is still organized as it was in its medieval heyday. Siena’s population of 60,000, contains 17 city-states, or contrada, which resembles a precinct. Each contrada has its own flag, government council, constitution, church, fountain, hymn, motto, coat of arms, patron saint, and municipal boundaries. Apparently, its because of the contrada, that there is almost no crime in Siena, nor street beggars for that matter. Social welfare issues are the responsibility of each contrada and underlying the heart of the system, is a certain pride in civic identity.

---The magnificent animals are brought into the churches. The horse snorts, the altar boys fill the air with clouds of incense, the prelate holds a cross above the animal's head and intones a few words in Latin, the onlookers recite a few verses, the priest says "Vai e torna vincitore "(Go and return a winner), and then it is over and you are pushed back out into the streets amid a feeling of mounting tension as harrowing as you'll ever feel. Everyone rushes across town, ignoring the contrada border line now in their hurry to get to their accustomed section in the middle of the Piazza, as close as possible to the finish line. The roar of the crowd is unforgettable....---image:http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/slideshow/ALeqM5gjt-PWAycXCaUcRehVhkESkcy1Mg?docId=1416f98358f74d82a1821317c9c4d2f9&index=0 Read More:http://www.premier.net/~Italy/palio.htm

Wagering on the Palio race, which is extensive, has often revolved around centuries old arguments as to who is the patron saint of horses in which to direct divine intervention over the course of the race.  Like Greek gods there is some crossing of jurisdictions. Saint Martin of Tours and St. Eligius are the frontrunners but are given chase by St. Anne and St. George. … which is The culminating moment of Il Palio, the actual horse race, is achingly brief: a minute and a half, give or take ten seconds. But so much has happened before the pack of frantic animals finally breaks loose from the ancient rope that marks the starting line!…

…Anyone familiar with Siena knows that Il Bruco is the smallest and least affluent contrada. Most of its residents are working class people, and it has none of the imposing banks, resplendent churches or opulent municipal buildings present almost everywhere else. It’s also off the beaten track, tucked just inside the walls on the Chianti side of town where the Gothic church of San Francesco stands. It hasn’t won a Palio since 1956, one of the longest “dry spells” in Sienese history. It speaks volumes about the personalities of the brucolani that they turn this singular stretch of bad luck into a “record” to point to with a kind of perverse pride. They will also make sure you know their neighborhood is one of only three to have received the official designation of contrada nobile. Ironically, the honorary title of “noble” was bestowed in the late 14th century, in recognition of Bruco’s leadership and heroic participation in a successful uprising against the local nobility.Read More:http://www.premier.net/~Italy/palio.htm

---Michela Brambilla, 42, a former Miss Italy finalist known for her high heels and short skirts, said that deaths and injuries to horses that take place in the traditional pageant harm the nation's image abroad. The flame-haired minister, nicknamed "La Rossa", said that in the wake of a decision last month by the parliament of Catalonia to ban bull fighting – the first region of mainland Spain to do so – Italy should consider curtailing similar dangerous events. However, the suggestion infuriated the inhabitants of Siena, with the city's mayor insisting that every effort was made to avoid injury to the horses. He pointed out that the event, which featured in a spectacular rooftop chase in the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace starring Daniel Craig as 007, attracted tens of thousands of tourists to the Tuscan city every summer and brought in much needed revenue. --- Read More:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/7930621/Italians-up-in-arms-after-minister-mounts-attack-on-Palio-horse-race.html image:http://thestar.blogs.com/photodesk/2010/07/the-palio.html


It’s a waste of words to describe what happens once the steeds and jockeys arrive on the scene. Utter pandemonium breaks loose. Fans scream, banners wave, whistles blare and cannons are fired as time after time the officials try to line the horses up in the correct order. You keep thinking the mossiere is about to raise his arm to signal the start, but then he nods imperceptibly, the air fills with tens of thousands of groans, and the horses all file out to begin again. You get so used to this rhythm that when the rope finally does fall, you are taken by surprise and have to refocus on the magnificent animals hurtling by at breakneck speed. You must look carefully, because they’ll only be back this way once again.

---Italy is not Greece, he would say. Italian banks are strong, the bond markets liquid and Italians live within their means.Speaking in Brussels in June, Mr. Berlusconi did not waver. “We have the good fortune of being a solid country … We are not worried about anything,” he said. But the numbers don’t support the message. Italy’s debt load is second only to Greece’s. Its bonds face downgrades as the Greek contagion laps Italy’s sunny shores. Economic growth is at a standstill and the country might be sliding back into recession....Economists say European Union’s economic brain trust and the European Central Bank are worried about Italy. A second Greek bailout is problem enough. A significant slowdown in the euro zone’s third-biggest economy would, as best, delay the wider euro zone recovery; at worst, plunge the region’s entire Mediterranean flank into crisis. Read More:http://news.maars.net/blog/2011/07/02/italy-comes-under-the-debt-crosshairs/ image:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125145497478266349.html

…Alas, most people will not receive the miracle they had been hoping for. That bay which had so impressed them in the church turned out to be a brenna (nag) and the jockey? Well, anyone could tell that the jockey was the scum of the earth. People are alternately crestfallen, infuriated, speechless and full of invective, and some of them get into shouting matches with the winners as they hop over the fences to get to the Judges Stands in time to see the Palio being lowered to their Captain. In the wink of an eye they are gone, following their rag to the cathedral to thank God for their victory. Read More:http://www.premier.net/~Italy/palio.htm

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