Author: Gayane Simonyan
It was a Sunday morning in Siena around 8:30 that I woke up with the sound of drums instead of the annoying stir that ambulance cars are dissolving in Florence.
I run to the window to see where the sound comes from and what’s happening outside.
The first thing that came to my mind was that I’m still sleeping and having an interesting dream about somewhat like in the fairy tale “Snow white” where the seven dwarfs that live in a tiny cottage are going to work in the nearby mines singing and playing some music.
I felt this illusion being a luscious reality when my Australian friend Charlotte, who invited me to Siena for the weekend, waved me from the kitchen window crying “drummers, drummers bum,bum,bum… dragons coming bum,bum,bum…”.
Me, half asleep went to that direction and saw an endless row of people having green and red costumes on walking around drumming and waving flags.
Series of questions arose in my drowsy mind: “Where am I, what’s happening, Why are these people dressed like that and what is all this for?”.
Seeing my wide-open-eyes and the messy expression on my face, Charlotte and her flatmate Emily from UK, simply soothed me by telling me that the old traditions typical only to Siena are still kept, followed and respected by people living there.
The whole secret lies in the following: Originally there were 59 contradas in Siena but the number reduced during the centuries and now 17 contradas are left that race in the Palio of Siena. Contrada is a typical Italian word that means a district or a ward within an Italian city. Each contrada is named after an animal or symbol like Dragon, Eagle, She-Wolf, Unicorn or Wave, Tower, Forest. etc. and each of them has its own song, baptismal font, its own museum, etc.
So this uniform was typical to the Dragon contrada where all the participants were dressed in their traditional suits of green, red and yellow costumes, hats, flags and drums.
Being excited and impressed with the story of contradas, I dressed up quickly, got ready and we all went down to have this probably once-in-a-lifetime experience.
All the streets of Siena were full of these costumers, drummers and tourists like us taking photos, videos and enjoying the parade itself.
Walking with the flooding crowd along the narrow streets of Siena, we found ourselves at the huge public space of the historic center of Siena called Piazza del Campo, one of Europe's greatest medieval squares, the history of which dates back to 1419 when it was built.
The square being overcrowded, our Italian friend invited us to his apartment to follow the parade from his window looking right to the square. The view from his window was astonishing: the whole panorama of the heart of Tuscany-Siena including Piazza del Campo with dancing, singing and playing contradas and with the excitement of flying colors that reminded me of the old and magical times with the traditions about which you could either dream or just watch a movie.
But now it seems to be so real: a fairy tale that suddenly disappeared when my alarm-reminder told me that “it’s high time to pack up your backpack and go back to Florence as the train is not part of your magical reality, it won’t wait for you...”.
Unwillingly running from my magical reality to the solid one, I missed the train but managed to take the next one and get back to my love city- Florence. So, my adventures go on and on...
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