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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Italy Series at ItalianPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Italian holidays and observances. I’m Becky, and you're listening to Season 1 Lesson 24, Siena Horse Race.
Have you ever seen a live horse race? In Italy, one of the most famous and oldest horse races is the Palio di Siena, which takes place twice a year, on July 2 and August 16, at Piazza del Campo.
In this lesson, I’ll tell you about this old Italian equestrian event.
Now, before we go into more detail, we’ve got a question for you- Do you know what “fare il cappotto” means in relation to the horse race of Siena?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
The horse race of Siena is one of Italy's oldest historical celebrations, and is linked to the Middle Ages. Perhaps the first horse race was organized in the year 1260 to celebrate the victory of Siena against Florence in the Battle of Montaperti.
Palio is a horse race between the so-called “contrade,” that is, the seventeen old quarters of Siena. Normally, the race takes place twice a year in the summer, but on some special occasions, such as for the Lunar mission in 1969, it was also organized in September.
The jockeys, or fantini, who participate in the horse race are highly skilled. They ride bareback and up until three days before the race, they are unaware of which horse they'll be riding, as the horse is drawn at random for each rider. All this increases the unpredictability of the outcome of the race.
On the day of the horse race, thousands of people flock to the Piazza del Campo where a track is usually set up using soil. The most intense moment of the race is the start, as it’s very difficult to align the horses before they set off.
The winner is the horse that completes three laps of the square first. Even if the horse finishes without the rider, the rider is still declared the winner. Because of the slope of the square and the confusion that is created during the race, the horses or the jockeys often fall. Winning the horse race for a contrada means receiving not only the prize “Drappellone,” which is the flag-trophy, but also luck throughout the year; that’s why the elaborate festivities associated with the event last for an entire week.
The names of the old quarters of Siena, or contrade, are inspired by the names of animals, whether real or imaginary. The quarters that have most often won the horse race in past years are the Goose or l’Oca and the Snail or la Chiocciola, while the Panther or la Pantera and the Eagle or l’Aquila seem to be the slowest!
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
Do you know what “fare il cappotto” means in relation to the horse race of Siena?
It’s a way of referring to the consecutive wins of the same quarter over two horse races races.
Well listeners, how was this lesson? Did you learn something new?
Are there any ancient festivals such as the horse race of Siena in your country?
Please leave a comment telling us at ItalianPod101.com.
See you next time!