THE “PALIO DI SIENA”

Risultati immagini per palio di sienaThe famous horse race of Siena, called Palio di Siena, is a very important and heart-felt event, it is not just a mere historical commemoration, but it is an integral part of the people of this city, since the contrada (the city district) is like a larger family, and the contradaioli (the district’s members) are primarily friends.

The Palio is run twice a year: the first one, which takes place on July 2, is called Palio di Santa Maria in Provenzano (“Palio of Saint Mary in Provenzano”), a church in Siena on whose main altar is a bust of the Virgin Mary,that, based on a legend, has no arms.Risultati immagini per palio di siena The second Palio is run on August 16, the day after the feast of the Assumption of Mary, and therefore named Paliodell’Assunta (“Palio of the Assumption”).

The name “Palio” comes from “drappellone” (“drape, banner”),also known as “cencio” (“rag”), which is a finely worked piece of silk, the prize of the competition. It is presented one month before the race, and it is the artwork of great artists: a Sienese artist is called to paint the drappellone for the July Palio, and the subject must be the Madonna di Provenzano; while for the August Palio, it is an international artist that has to represent the iconography of the Assumption; among them some famous names of the past:Botero and Guttuso. Continue reading

DON LORENZO MILANI

In these days we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Don (Father) Lorenzo Milani, a priest that for many years was considered a thorny figure, and therefore often marginalized and left alone by the Church; recently, though, a reconciliation has been attempted, as shown by the visit of Pope Francis to his tomb.

My words here below are meant to be an introduction to the life, character and activity of Don  Lorenzo Milani, that I invite you to explore further through writings by and about him, to discover the unique and special man he was.

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JUNE 24: ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PATRON FEAST

On June 24, Florence celebrates one of its most important holidays: its patron saint day, St. John the Baptist. It is on this date, in fact, that the Church celebrates the Nativity of this saint considered the Forerunner of Christ, and the one that introduced baptism in the water as a form of purification.
Many events take place in the city during this day. But: why is St. John the Baptist so important for Florence?

The city’s worship of this saint is clearly visible in many artworks, where the classical iconography depicted him either as a child, the so called “Giovannino” (“Little John”), together with the Virgin Mary and the Child, or as an adult, clothed with camel’s hair, to remember his life as an ascetic in the desert. In Florence, the main monument dedicated to him is, indeed, the Baptistery of St. John, located in the square with the same name, in front of the Cathedral; this has become therefore the center of the festivities dedicated to him.

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MONTELUPO CERAMICS

Every year in June MontelupoFiorentino, a city in the province of Florence, dedicates a few days to its most important and famous product, ceramic, organizing a festival dedicated to it: Montelupo Ceramics Festival.

On this occasion,  the organization provides many visits to factories and workshops, meetings with ceramists and artisans, and  in-depth examinations of the history, life and production of this ancient art.  Of course, all this is combined with other events, like music, shows and games for children and adults.

Since the Middle Ages, this small city distinguished itself as a ceramic production center, especially of majolica (enamelled ceramic), and the moment of greatest production was in 1400 and 1500. In 1406, in fact, Florence conquered Pisa, and this allowed the Montelupo’s artifacts (and not just them) to open up a new sea route; moreover, this gave the artisan the opportunity to compete with the Spanish ceramics, that imposed on Montelupo a qualitative increase in its production activity: in fact, from this moment on, it began to specialize in the Spanish-Moorish-style majolica (with a prevalent use of blue and green).

Essential in these centuries were also the Florentine commissions by private families as the Medici, as well as by important institutes like the Old Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella, orcommercial carriers  like the Antinori family, all elements that allowed the Montelupo’s Majolica to be shipped all over the world through the Arno river and the ports of Pisa and Livorno:  remnants of these artifacts, in fact, were found in Central America, in the Philippines, and in many European countries.

This city became thus the heart of the ceramic production in the Florentine territory, becoming the main activity of the local families, so that in those centuries more than fifty manufactures could be countedwithin the city walls, most of them with its own distinctive brand.

Even today ceramic processing is a symbol of this place, and there are still workshops and factories devoted to this production, that, in some cases, today as in the past, is able to create real works of art.

The city of Montelupo has reconstructed the entire history and development of this specific tradition in the MuseodellaCeramica (Ceramics Museum), where more than thousand pieces are displayed, most of them found during some excavations in the historic center of Montelupo. There are pieces that were destined to the Medici family, as revealed by the presence of their emblem, to the Medici Pope Leo X, and other members of the Roman Church. One of the most important artworks is the famous “Rosso di Montelupo” (“Red of Montelupo”), a basin dated 1509, decorated with grotesques on a yellow and red background, named after the particular red pigment in its decoration, which composition is still mystery today.

The Florentine Football

The “Florentine football”, also known as “historic football” or “costume football” is a Florentine tradition that dates back to the 15th century. It is a mix of soccer and rugby (and nowadays a little wrestling too!), because ball is grabbed with hands; this game was played especially during carnival time, and this explains the reference to costumes in its name. Nowadays players are dressed in medieval-style costumes, each one with the colors of his own team. Teams are four, one for each historic quarter of the city: Santa Croce (Blues), San Giovanni (Greens), Santa Maria Novella (Reds) and Santo Spirito (Whites).
In the 15th and 16th centuries the “Florentine football” was considered an aristocratic game, something that derived from what children used to play in the streets, or soldiers in the military camps, but at the higher level, and for this reason some of the main citizens of Florence had taken part to it, like Piero de’ Medici, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, or Giulio de’ Medici (future Pope Clemens VII), and the Grand Duke Cosimo I. It was played alternately in the main squares of the city, but the version that came to us, becoming one of the traditional festivals of the city, was the game played by the soldiers, and from that moment on the game has developed in a more popular way. It reproduces an important game in the history of the city: the one played by the Florentines in February 1530 during the siege of the Spanish troops of Charles V. While the city was under this siege commanded by the general of the king-emperor Charles V (1529-30), the Florentines decided to play their traditional “soccer” game in Santa Croce square, to show their enemies, camped nearby outside the city walls, that they were not a bit intimidated by the situation, and that this would not stop them from having fun.

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The “wine windows”

Walking through the streets of Florence, both in the crowded ones around the main monuments, as well as in the quieter ones, if you look around with curiosity, you can see many things, small and large, that the various attractions and the above mentioned monuments sometimes shade: tabernacles; decorated traffic signs; pictures of historical celebrities.. underwater; “Dante’s plaques” with Divine Comedy excerpts; more marble plaques on the walls of palaces, commemorating important personalities who had lived there; and much more. But if we look not so high, more or less at our height, we can often notice some strange, small windows on the walls of palaces: these are the so called “buchette” (small holes), or “finestrini” (small windows) – they have many names – for wine. Between the historic center, and the streets that were outside the last 1333 city walls, we can count more than hundred wine windows!
But: what are they? And what is their function? Better: what was  their function? Simple: to sell wine!

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