Dispatches From Italy -  Siena celebrations, Arezzo market, El Palio

Saturday early morning, 1 July 2006.  Lago di Bolsena

The sun is about to poke above the surrounding hills, about to flood my third day in Italy with light.  Last night, we navigated our way out of Rome and north to Lago di Bolsena.  True campsites were scare, but an olive grove with softish shorn grass appeared out of the dark.  Poach!  Waking to soft rippling waves from the nearby lake, a slight dew sparkling on the grass, my sleeping bag, and Kevin and Karen’s nearby tents, and soft light from the almost-risen sun brought a grin to my face.  Up.  Camera.  Walk.  Say hello to the day.  Japan’s rising sun in March.  Montana’s rising sun in April.  Italy’s rising sun in June.  Three time zones, each about eight hours apart, a ring around the world.  Absolute wonderment is my companion as I walk the lake’s black sand shore.

Saturday afternoon.  Siena

Two laps of the Piazza.  Maybe 20 seconds.  That’s all you get to win the prestige of the shortest (official) horserace in the world.  We are perusing Siena, checking the scene.  The walled city is bustling, preparations and celebrations well underway.  The tradition stands as a competition between 10 ‘neighbourhoods’ of Siena, each section entering a horse in the race, and each section also having a massive open-air celebratory dinner the night before the race… tonight.  Flags line the streets, chairs and tables fill courtyards and spill into the surrounding streets.  Grown-ups and kids alike walk the streets proudly wearing their horse’s colours.  And amidst all this Italy-ness, we are stepping into a crowded Aussie-flavoured pub to watch the England-Portugal World Cup match.  There is an engineering term for a burst of heat so powerful that the area of material being heated expands faster than the rest of the material can heat up, causing high stresses: thermal shock.  Recall a cold glass shattering when boiling water is poured into it?  Stepping into this crowded pub is a case of culture ‘thermal’ shock – I have one foot fully in Italy and another fully in Australia, and my shattering head betwixt the two.

Saturday really late.  Outside Siena

We’ve had pretty good luck with campsites, all two of them so far.  To follow up our lakeside olive grove poach, Karen has found a campsite outside Siena with a pool and excellent neighbourhood walks amongst its pleasures.  Rough.  Outdoors, I like to sleep in, shall we say, odd places.  I shy away from tents unless inclement weather truly threatens.  Or clouds of mosquitoes.  So of course I couldn’t stay on the hard ground near Kevin and Karen and the six-foot tall night light.  Instead, I found a slight dip next to a hedge and under a monstrous pine.  All seemed well.  Now, at what I’m guessing to be early morning, my choice doesn’t seem so brilliant.  It isn’t raining, there are no mosquitoes, but it seems that I’ve found an acacia thorn… poking through my now deflated thermarest and sticking me in the bum.  Two nights in and I’m making a mental note to buy a foam pad when I get back to Seattle.  They may be bulky, but they don’t deflate at two in the morning.


Good morning, Italy! Flower boxes on the lakeside

Arcing motion at a standstill

Layers of chairs

Taking a break from the heat

Wearing the color of your horse, gazing at the beast himself, awestruck…

He did not go as fast as the horses…

This thing worked yesterday…

Setting up for a feast of gigantic proportions

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Sunday morning, 2 July 2006.  Arezzo

I’m sitting on a stone wall in Arezzo, surrounded by a bustling antiques street market and talking with Karen.  I adore these pithy conversations, conversations that revolve around life, dreams, desires.  I’m happy right now.  My cameras have proved faithful companions, recording moments and faces – attempting to capture the ambiance of where I am.  But some things can’t be recorded or captured.  Even movies with their sound and motion can’t record the complexities and speed of emotion and thought.  These things are simply to be experienced.  My cameras are silent as Karen and I talk about the past, present and future.  All too soon, we will step back into the crowd to find Kevin, lunch, and return to Siena.

Sunday afternoon.  Siena

The horses and riders are jockeying for favour from the announcer, jockeying for the best spot on the line.  The lineup takes shape and the crowd draws a breath… but the announcer is changing his mind, dissolving the order into chaos again.  One more time… then again… then ag… but the announcer signals and the horses are exploding away from the line, tearing past the cheering crowd!  A long arc to the right into the wicked sharp right turn where all the medics and crash pads are.  One, two… three horses are riderless galloping into the next straightway!  A slight uphill slows the action, another right turn but not so dangerous this time.  The medics are dashing onto the track to grab the thrown riders – they better hurry!  The lead horse is past the start line for the second lap and thundering towards the medics, closely pursued by flying colours and the riderless horses.  Just in time the downed riders are carried into the crowd!  Everybody stays upright in the wicked right… launching into the uphill, through the second hard right, this will be close and it’s a mad dash to the finish line and we have a winner!


This image took some patience; manning the restaurant doors

Packing the people in!

This crowd has a lot of legs

animation - 2 rounds of the track in about realtime

Remains of the day

Celebrations in the streets

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To RomeRome Day IRome Day II • Siena • Radda/StazzemaAzzano/LericiCinque Terre/World CupRome/EnglandSeattle

Peter Newbury's Published Adventures