Sunday, July 8, 2007

7.02.2007 Old Town Certaldo and Siena

We took bikes on the scenic route to Old Town Certaldo, which is up on a big hill and kind of looks like a giant castle from afar. It seems like it should be a tourist attraction, but in fact there are businesses and residences. The route there was great, with nice views of vineyards and the Tuscan countryside.

We got lost on our way to the grocery store, but eventually got home and cooked some really good pasta.

We left for Siena in the afternoon with some friends from the hostel, for a semi-annual bareback horserace event. Representatives from each of the 12 regions of Siena compete in a lawless race where almost anything goes. It took them about 20 minutes to even start the race because the competitors kept fighting each other for the inside lane. They false started twice, and had to start over.

Two riders fell off their horses, but apparently the horse can win without the jockey. One guy seemed like he got trampled, but looked okay when he got up. The entire arena was insane. It was completely packed and equally lawless. There was absolutely no organization, no bathrooms, no entrances or exits, just mobs of people in an enclosed area. It took me an hour to go to the bathroom because it was impossible to fight through the crowd, and Kyle peed in a wine bottle in the middle of the crowd. Fortunately, nobody seemed to notice.

When I was trying to get back into the arena from the bathroom, some idiot grabbed my ass. I turned around and glared at the three guys behind me and asked who did it. Of course, none of them answered, so I slapped the guiltiest looking one. It turned out to be the wrong guy, but I yelled at all of them, and then they tried to make peace and offer me a beer. I refused and glared and disappeared into the crowd.

Citizens of the winning township rejoiced and embraced each other in glee when the race was over.

By the time the event was over, the trains had stopped, so we had no choice but to partake in the street festivities. The winning township provided free kegs of wine in the streets and served wine to everyone standing around, including 10-year-old children. The winning township had a little parade of drummers and flag wavers marching through the streets the entire night. We did some bar hopping, and eventually took the 5am train back home in the morning.

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