On songs, and bareback horse racing

Yesterday I stood in the shade and cried a little as I listened to men singing together in the street.

I am on holiday in Siena with my son J, during the run-up to the Palio, an extraordinary bareback horse dash around the massive Piazza del Campo which takes place every 16th August, and has done for many hundreds of years. J has had enough of the heat and the crowds, and is red-faced and angry as he leaves me for our hotel, taking the map with him. I am turning in the narrow streets, disconcerted and a little upset. The singing seems to come from the end of an alleyway but I cannot see the men’s faces, in fact I do not want them to know I am listening in. Their voices are sweet and strong and full of an earthy energy, and the tight tunes and harmonies of their traditional folk songs make me want to live here, right now, and for time to stop so that this can happen and I can keep on hearing them. These are wonderful tunes.

I am taken back in an instant to a time when I was 20 and working on Lake Garda in the north of Italy, in love, and where the men I spent my evenings with sang together like this, sometimes for hours on end, such happy times.

Yesterday, there in the moment with that extraordinary singing, with my 20 year old self standing next to me, and my 15 year old son walking away from me, I allowed myself a few tears for all of us.

^ These are some of our pictures of the first of the trial races which we attended yesterday evening in the 15th century Campo alongside thousands of other spectators. Both J and I had completely cheered up by then. I’m sorry some of these pictures are so  blurred.

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8 comments

  1. Thanks. An affecting and evocative post. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox.

    1. Thanks Thom. I think it may be one of those memories that will stick with me – no photos needed. Now on our way to Lucca…

  2. What a moving post, I could feel all the emotion that stirred in you in that rousing moment. So pleased you were able to enjoy some of the splendor of the event. I have visited that square, without horses, and it was pretty spectacular then.

    THank you for sharing on #WASO

    1. Dear Sarah…. When he stomped off, I did wonder if I should follow him, but I thought he was old enough to look after himself (he has a MUCH better sense of direction than me!) and I didn’t want to allow it to spoil my afternoon. I’m so glad I didn’t follow him as I would have missed that magical moment and it probably wouldn’t have sent a great message to J. Men singing in the street doesn’t sound very obviously moving so I am glad I was able to convey a bit of what it meant to me.. Thank you very much for commenting.

  3. What an interesting and emotional post, thank you for sharing it!

    1. Thanks Erin, glad you liked it. Good to be on holiday and have a bit more time to write as well as see a bit of Italy I didn’t know before.

  4. Wow such an emotional post!
    So impressed with the places you are taking your son, wish I had the money to do this!

    1. That’s one thing we single parents never have enough of, that’s for sure! I budget these trips really carefully but I know I’m lucky. I go completely stir crazy though if I don’t move around!

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