Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Palio Legnano 2018 . . . Medieval Pageantry and Some Horse Racing

Sunday, 27 May, 2018

On May 29, 1176, the forces of the Holy Roman Empire, led by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, fought the Lombard League's army in what became known as the Battle of Legnano.

This weekend, the modern day city of Legnano would once again celebrate the major victory by their local heroes, the Lombard League, 842 years ago.

Thus we trekked south to enjoy a scorching day at a medieval pageant and see a bareback, Palio horse race.

Or two.

Or three.   
 But were we in the right place?

This looked promising

Legnano's City Hall was all decked out

What's that sign say?

 We ARE at the right place!

 People walking around in this
style of clothing should have
been our first clue
 Has anybody seen our leader?

There is his worship

My underlings need
a good flogging some days

846 years later,
women still dig men in uniform


How did one of our Skorpions
get on a Legnano Municipio wall?

Swito has to be a prime suspect, don't you think?
Lombardia Banner

Greater Milan Banner

The colors of the eight
Legnano Contradas
that will vie for honors today

The most famous Palio in Italy takes place twice a year in Siena, once in July and again in August.

In Siena, the city is composed of 17 distinct Contradas or neighborhoods that are fiercely loyal to their own kind. Only ten of these 17 Contradas get to race in each of their Palio race dates.

Joe Mollica and I attended Siena's Palio back in 2009 and had a wonderful time, so I was really looking forward to seeing Legnano's version with Laurie today. 

The Legnano Banner

 Nice Municipio ceiling art

This HUGE Crucifix will
be a prize trophy later in the day

Still marveling at the Municipio

Pride in the past

We needed a cappuccino
and a brioche to continue

This former pharmacy turned caffè filled the bill.

Now as for Legnano's Palio, it would be much smaller as Legnano only has eight Contradas, not 17 as in Siena.

The Contrada banners were colorful . . . 

La Flora



Being her sadistic self, Laurie wanted to root for this Contrada given their symbol.

 San Bernardino

San Domenico


San Magno

San Martino

I planned on rooting for this Contrada in honor of our Skorpion WR Martino Piazzi's great game last night against the Blue Storms.

We were counseled to get to the city's calcio stadium early to buy our tickets, so we started a slow walk in that direction. 

 Laurie found Italian
wine with her decidedly
non-Italian name on the label

 We were in "her" Sant'Ambrosio
Contrada so we stopped to eat

One of Pacio's cats?

A simple repast

For Laurie, Truer Words Were
Never Spoken

Sant'Ambrosio Drum Corps
warming up

 WWII Legnano Heroes

We got to the stadium in plenty of time to buy two end zone, non-reserved seat tickets for a reasonable price.  Also it was all that they had left.

The stadium doors would open in about an hour and we wanted to secure a good spot in the cement bleachers early on in the day.

While we waited for the gates to
open, we would be . . .
. . . sorely . . .

. . . TEMPTED!

Other than a beer and a gelato, it was a scorching day after all, we were strong!

The stadium is a huge home
field advantage for
Contrada San Bernardino

 We're going in at last!

 And we were WAY too early!

 We were located in neither of our
two desired Contrada's fan base areas

Instead we were in GREAT seats in the Contrada Sant'Erasmo section.

And it was HOT!

How hot you ask?

It was . . .

. . . Nonno Wears a Wife Beater Hot!

The very definition of the word scorching!

Finally, after nearly two hours
sitting in the Sun, the Contradas
started to slowly parade into the stadium

 Drums and . . .

. . . trumpets led the way

 Flags and . . .

. . . Banners too

It took six Men-at-Arms
to carry the Legnano Banner

Loving the Heraldry!

 The Contradas each march in
extremely slowly

There was about a five minute span between the end of one Contrada's lap around the infield and the start of the next Contrada's victory march.

We had dancing girls


Contrada Queens and . . .

 . . . Princesses

Sword wielding Contrada Lords

Cool hatted groomsmen

A Man of Letters

Well dressed drink servers

Laurie's Contrada
Sant'Ambrogio procession . . .

. . . Complete with a Cat o' Nine Tails

What is making these lasses
dance so crazily?

Oh, a witch of course

 Garland bearers

 Contrada Royalty

 Contrada Grunts


Fire Breathing Mystery Man

Juggling on stilts can NOT be easy

Peregrinos on their way
to Santiago de Compostela

I usually talk at length about the Camino de Santiago at this point, but not today.

What a skirt!

Someday I'LL wear that crown!

 Old Guys Rule!

Love the Michael Contreras
style beard

Nice Flowers

After the recent Royal Wedding in
the U.K., I was getting into the
whole royalty thing

Industrial sized crossbows

Best Drummer tunics of the day
in my opinion

It's good to be a Knight

 Remembering the Fallen

"If I loose 20 kilos, maybe they'll
give me a horse next year."

 A Female Archer

Was this allowed 846 years ago?

Prancing and pulling the
Queen's Wagon

 Orange is nice

 A unique looking drum

Great Banner

 Lots of Clerics in . . .

. . . Contrada San Magno

He'll cut your head off
just for the fun of it . . .

. . . But not hers

These capes must cost a fortune!


Liking the shredded look that
is so popular in jeans today

As I mentioned, we were in the Sant'Erasmo section and quickly figured out that we would both need to switch our allegiance to them if we were to escape with our lives.

You see, Sant'Erasmo is Italy's Patron Saint of Rowdiness.

And here are Sant'Erasmo's two
passionate ring leaders

Contrada Sant"Erasmo was

 Laurie's video of the
Contrada Sant'Erasmo parade

 Lots of Birds of Prey

 One big one!

A few pelts that their birds
accounted for in the field

Contrada Sant'Erasmo Maidens

 Our Queen . . .

. . . and our King

A fine Contrada Sant'Erasmo steed

 Appreciation from the
Contrada Sant'Erasmo spectators
to the Contrada Sant'Erasnmo marchers

The last Contrada entered the stadium

Resplendent Banner

Their Beautiful Queen

I love Italian bread

 She is a Sophomore at the
University of Washington
studying Homeopathic Medicine

I'm happy to be here

We're going to die, aren't we?

The Contrada marches were finally over after nearly two hours.

All they needed to do was reassemble in the infield and then start the race.

Did I say race?

Lots of color

See what I mean
A Carroccio
or Sacred War Wagon
drawn by oxen

A Carroccio like this one was a symbolic key to the Lombard Leagues victory. The huge crucifix on board will go to the winning Contrada soon. 

Those are BIG animals!

We are now all assembled,
 all we need is a Knight to lead us
into the Battle of Legnano

How about him?

Guido da Landriano

His mounted troops rode two laps
around the infield . . .

. . . at a rousing full gallop!

Finally we were ready to start
the Palio race

Not true.

I meant races.

Unlike Siena's one, ten horse race on their Municipal's ancient piazza, Legnano's would be a three race affair.

A random draw placed each Contrada's horse into one of two four horse semi-final races.

The top two horses in each semi-final race then makes the final.

The first horse was out for
Semi-Final #1

After prancing about and warming up for a bit they entered the starting area, no chutes just a rope to hold the horses back.


 Here they come into our
turn for the first of four times

How do these jockeys stay on?

Magnificent animals

Look Ma, no hooves on the ground!

The four lap race takes just over a minute to complete.

Our first two qualifiers for the Final Race were the horses representing the Contrada of Legnarello and, Laurie's original pick, the Contrada of Sant'Ambrosio.

Why are the Sant'Erasmo fans so excited
over the Semi-Final #1 races end?

Their (our?) horse was not in the race but you see the horse from Contrada San Domenico was.

And it did not come in first or second so it and its Contrada were eliminated from the 2018 Legnano Palio Final Race.

And Sant'Erasmo fans hate San Domenico fans.

Thus the fans around us instantly celebrated San Domenico's loss with a lilting refrain that all true Sant'Erasmo fans, both young and old, used to serenade the San Domenico fans that used the word "culo" a lot.

The San Domenico fans took exception to this gesture for some reason.

On to Semi-Final #2 . . .

The Sant'Erasmo horse
was named "Habanero"

A good omen, I thought.

I liked the looks of this horse

Here comes Semi-Final #2

La Flora leading Sant'Erasmo
with one lap to go

Home stretch and Sant'Erasmo's
jockey is looking back to see how
close the third horse was

He wasn't, which means that Habanero and Contrada Sant'Erasmo were in the Finals!

Laurie's video of Semi-Final #2

Now with Contrada Sant'Erasmo in the Finals, another round of that Culo song broke out aimed at the now distraught and by now schifo (Italian for disgusted) San Domenico faithful.

There would be a half hour break to give all of the horses time to recover from their Semi-Final races.

It was a chance for all of us facing the still burning Sun to take on heat stroke.

We were up to the challenge.

The Final Race of a long day

It started about five hours after we first entered the stadium.

Laurie's Final Race Video

Just like in Semi-Final Race #2, La Flora came in first and Sant'Erasmo took second. 

Contrada La Flora celebrating
their first Palio win since 2010

That is when things got interesting. You see, this was now the signal to the so far quiet Contrada San Domenico fans to fire up and start firing verbal salvos back at Contrada Sant'Erasmo since Habanero didn't win it all.

It was a FULL SCALE Italian verbal, hand gesture and body language battle.

Nothing physical happened and the riot police intervened to be sure it did not escalate further.

We used their cover to quietly sneak out of the stadium to make our way home.

 Legnano's main piazza
on the way to our car

Legnano's Municipio
looks amazing at night

What a GREAT day to be
living in Lombardia!


Anonymous said...

Shouldn't her contrada have a wooden spoon?

#2 son

George said...

Your childhood upbringing makes a very convincing argument for the wooden spoon.