Friday, August 6, 2010

When in Siena ...

The rocky cobble stones that line the maze like streets of Siena, Italy are filled with men and women walking back and forth from work. The men and women wear the latest trends in Italian fashion including women dressed in what I call Genie pants, baggy pants that are only tight around the ankles and the waist.

They not only motor by me in their Vespas, but strut along in high heeled shoes not caring that at any moment they could twist an ankle on the broken surfaces of the medieval age cobble stones. It is truly an amazing sight to see how they have mastered walking on these rocks. Something I strive to do on paved surfaces.

Walking through one of Siena's portas or doors is like walking into the past. The streets are small winding paths of cobblestones, laundry drying out of the windows, giant wooden doors with their own distinct knockers, and flags of the districts contrada.

There are seventeen different districts: Nobil contrada dell’ Aquila (Eagle), Nobil contrada del Bruco (Caterpillar), Contrada Priora della Civetta (Little Owl), Contrada del Drago (Dragon), Contrada Imperiale della Giraffa (Giraffe), Contrada Sovrana dell’Istrice (Porcupine), Contrada del Leocorno
(Unicorn), Contrada della Lupa (Wolf), Nobil contrada del Nicchio (Seashell), Nobil contrada dell’Oca (Goose), Contrada Capitana dell’Onda (Wave), Contrada della Pantera (Panther), Contrada della Selva (Forest), Contrada della Tartuca (Tortosie), Contrada della Torre (Tower), e Contrada di Valdimontone (Valley of the Ram).

Every year ten of the districts compete in a horse race in il campo. They run three times around the center and which ever jockey and/or horse is victorious in il palio they get bragging rights for the next year. This tradition dates back to 1656 when there were originally 59 contrade.

Every year hundreds of tourists join the people of Siena in hope to just catch a glimpse of this historic event. They too bring their own style to this city as they discover centuries old history in the Middle Age walled city. Many come in packs dressed in the stereotypical "I'm a tourist" uniform which usually makes them look like a walking advertisement. The Nike sneakers, billabong shorts or Levi Jeans, their favorite sports team T-shirt and favorite vacation hot-spot baseball cap.

Many of the tourists causally shopping at the stores or eating a gelato in the sunny Siena weather wear sandals or flip-flops. It seems to be the less intolerable way of walking around Siena while still looking fashionable. And most of them purchased the sandals at Siena's Wednesday morning market
for around 10 - 20 Euros.

Fashionable, reasonable and "Made in Italy."