Contrada Life: The Historic Centre of Siena

Siena in Tuscany in central Italy was a rich medieval city state with a thriving finance industry. It is known for its main central square, the Piazza del Campo, which is fan-shaped or shell-shaped and lined with rows of medieval houses. The city is divided into 17 districts called Contrada. Each has its own church and community hall. The Contrada local communities date back to the medieval period. Community members are closely bound and compete against rival communities. Each Contrada is identified by an emblem.

This is the Tower Contrada. Today they are carrying out a secular baptism ceremony to accept babies as members. Here, they are hosting a large dinner party with residents and former residents of the Contrada. It is part of their celebration on the night before a very important event. On the following day, Piazza del Campo is filled with 75 thousand spectators. An inter-Contrada called the Palio, a horse race will take place. The Palio started in the 17th century and continues to this day. People compete against each other for the communal pride of their Contrada. Having run 3 times around the square, the Caterpillar horse is leading the pack and finishes! The winner only gets a banner as a prize. But the banner brings great honor to the Contrada people who win.

Each Contrada has its own patron saint. On their Patron Saints Day people offer prayers in church and then community representatives visit the graveyard. People who have dedicated their lives to Contrada rest here. Contrada lives with the citizens of Siena as they rejoice, sing and cry together.

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