Rivalries in Siena
MacKenzie Schmidt (first-year), Stephanie Hubbard (first-year), and Bethany Kent (first-year)
Italians seem to love rivalries, and the town of Sienna is no exception. Our guide Niccola began the tour by explaining the concept of "contradas," or districts, each with their own symbol, color, and flag (not to mention museum). A person remains a part of the contrada they are born into for life no matter who they marry or where they live later in life. Buildings are all marked with their contrada's symbol, with only a few neutral areas in the city.
Churches are considered neutral, and we had the chance to visit both the Duomo, a large cathederal, and St. Catherines, which displays the mummified head and thumb of their patron. Another neutral area is the Palazzo Publico, which is the town hall along the town square in which the twice yearly Palio is ran. The Palio is the city's most prized tradition, a horse race between the different contradas.
After visiting the major sites of the town with Niccola we had free time to explore the town before the long ride (read: long nap time) back to Montecatini. The hotel served yet another delicious dinner before we had free time prior to curfew.