National Geographic : 1951 Aug
233 Burton Holmes, Ewing Galloway Entries Risk Life and Limb Circling the Pavement-hard Race Course Spills are frequent on Piazza del Campo, Siena's hub. For better footing, cobblestones are covered with earth. A sharp corner is banked with mattresses. At one steep incline, contenders often hurtle off the track and down the Via San Martino. That is why anyone lost in Siena is said to have "gone to San Martino." After three days of thrilling anticipation, marked by appropriate ceremonies, the great day arrives. Early in the afternoon all the world troops through the city's narrow, wind ing streets (still one-way, thanks to a remain ing rule of AMG) and assembles in the Campo. Brass bands of indifferent artistic merit but unrivaled enthusiasm entertain the crowd there. Tension mounts. The city fathers be gin to gather at their raised seats on the plat form built over Costarella Lane, not far from the Public Palace. Municipal police and carabinieri keep the crowds in order. For once the carabinieri, Italy's colorful national police, are over shadowed by the general finery of the day. When it seems that the spectators, and I speak from experience, simply cannot stand the suspense another moment, the procession enters with great dignity. A mighty "Ah-h-h" goes up from thousands of eager throats. The order of precedence at a palio is in flexibly fixed by custom and rule. Each group knows just where it must fit into the poly chrome mosaic picture. The procession advances in four cadres. Brilliant medieval costumes of every hue of the rainbow flash in the sunlight (page 240). The play of colors before the magnificent Gothic background is, to me, a source of never ending delight. Mace-bearers Men of Dignity First come the mace-bearers with heavy silver maces, those massive badges of author ity used from time immemorial. These macers are somewhat older men, for theirs is no mean responsibility. Clad in silks and satins of 13th-century style, they step for ward sedately. Other groups in medieval costume follow. Then comes the Captain of the People, the leader of the citizens, attended by pages and grooms, together with archers, halberdiers, lancers, pikeman, and other warriors (page 234). As this cavalcade passes, a brief pause marks the end of part one of the procession. During this slight interruption, guests on the terraces of palaces overlooking the scene, also those at the club, are refreshed with beakers of Asti spumante or limonata and offered delicious sandwiches of sun-cured Ital ian ham.