Just after I wrote the post below the internet crashed around this area . It is back up this morning so here it is ….
I first went to visit Sienna in August 2001 and the track was still there in the main square as were all the seating. I loved Sienna and amazingly found a great place for beers and for lunch at prices that were really reasonable. My son bought a flag from one of the districts ( contrade) which he still has I think. My Italian was even worse then and I assumed Palio meant horse race but actually it means trophy.
Imagine my surprise to discover we have a Palio down here in September. It takes place in the town of Massafra which is just an hop skip and jump from our place. It commemorates the battle on the 14th of September 1594 between Massafra and the Turks (who didn’t invade this Puglia ?).
Horses are involved but only on the 15th of September when there is a jousting competition between knights dressed in the armour of 1594. It costs the princely sum of €1 to get in and starts at 19.30hrs.
The big event is on September 22nd when the six districts ( contrade) parade their flags at midday through the streets of the town and then at 1900hrs a relay race takes place with athletes selected for their running prowess from each of the districts speed around a piazza rather like the horses do in Sienna. The Palio is presented to the distract that wins the race. Here is a taster
Talking of Massafra those of you that read the post last Sunday and haven’t slept all week worrying about the how the British 1st Airbourne Division managed against the crack German 1st Parachute Division well let me put you out of your misery. The landing at Taranto
went unopposed as the German commander decided an ambush and harry campaign would if nothing else hold up the advance. The Allied plan was to link up with the American landing at Salerno and seize the large airfield at Foggia and so the Division split in two one lot heading to Brindisi and the other up the road to Massafra where they arrived today 70 years ago. Brindisi was also taken today 70 years ago and Bari tomorrow. The Germans focused on this push to Salerno and allowed the other thrust to move quite freely. By today 70 years ago 58 British were dead and hundreds injured from the ambushes against no German deaths and a few injuries. Further up the road from Massafra at the town of Castellaneta the commander of the 1st Airbourne Major- General George Hopkinson was himself killed by an ambush as he arrived to watch the taking of the town.
Now Castellaneta was famous anyway as it was the birthplace of one of the greats of the silent movie era. Born in 1895 in the town of a French mother and Italian father he failed at school and eventually after leaving home ended up in New York in 1913. There he found work as a “taxi” dancer dancing with rich American women at Maxim’s club.
By 1919 he had found his way to Los Angeles and after several bit parts he was cast as the lead in Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The rest as they say is history
By 1926 he was dead of peritonitis aged 31 so sealing his fame . There is as you would expect a Rudy Valentino Museum in Castellaneta opened in 2006.