A man of Pantera

Look at that great face. Can’t you see him marching to war for the Republic of Siena at the Battle of Montaperti, in 1260? In fact, he is a man of the Pantera (Panther) contrada in Siena, one of the 17 medieval contrade in this city. This afternoon he was marching with his fellow contradioli from the church of their contrada, through the streets of the city, and down to the Campo for the ceremony leading up to the Palio tonight. (The Palio is the frenzied horse race they have twice a year each summer, and have had for many centuries.) Here are some other great faces of Siena I saw on the street today. I have listed their particular contrada under the photo:

Pantera (Panther)

Girafa (Giraffe)

(Sorry, that one was a little out of focus.)

Pantera (Panther)

Leocorno (Unicorn)

Not all the marchers in today’s parades were characterized by beautiful faces (though I assure you from personal observation that this Onda supporter marching in front of me had an even more beautiful face):

We, of course, marched with Onda, but we got to see other contrade marching because the parades passed in the crowded streets, the rat-a-tat-tats of their drums echoing off the stone buildings.

At the Church of San Giuseppe, the Onda parish, we met up with Brian and Jennifer Pletcher, readers of this blog who come from Indianapolis. They are traveling in Europe right now to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. By luck, we happened to be in Siena together today, and we arranged to meet outside the church. (I also had a lovely breakfast with another longtime American reader and his friend this morning; I would name them but I forgot to ask permission.) The Pletchers marched with Lucas and me through the streets behind Onda. We broke away at the Campo to go to Grom for gelato, courtesy of the Pletchers (grazie mille!):

Here’s another view from the street:

Tartuca (Tortoise)

If you find all this contrade stuff interesting, I invite you to read a 2015 post of mine called Contrade And The Common Good,” which is a more considered reflection on the social meaning of these bonds.

Here’s a rear view of Lucas in the parade:

It has all been a lot for a boy to take in. I could see him fading even before we had gelato, and when he leaned into my shoulder after we finished our cones in the gelateria, I knew we had to go lie down in the hotel for a short nap before the big race. As I type this, he is sound asleep in his bed. It feels to him like we have lived an entire year in just these past six days in Italy. And if Onda wins tonight…