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The backbone of Il Palio are Siena's 17 contrade, which you can liken to city wards or administrative districts. These well-defined neighborhoods were designated in the Middle Ages, basically to aid the many military companies hired to defend Siena's fiercely-earned independence from Florence and other nearby city states. Over the centuries, the contrada has lost its administrative function and become an area held together by its residents' common emotions and devotions. Its role has broadened, so that every important event - baptisms, deaths, marriages, church holidays, victories, even wine or food festivals - was celebrated by, and only by, the contrada. Even today it is not considered a good idea to marry out of the contrada, and if you do, it's probably wise to sleep at your parents' house the night before the race.
 
 
The backbone of Il Palio are Siena's 17 contrade, which you can liken to city wards or administrative districts. These well-defined neighborhoods were designated in the Middle Ages, basically to aid the many military companies hired to defend Siena's fiercely-earned independence from Florence and other nearby city states. Over the centuries, the contrada has lost its administrative function and become an area held together by its residents' common emotions and devotions. Its role has broadened, so that every important event - baptisms, deaths, marriages, church holidays, victories, even wine or food festivals - was celebrated by, and only by, the contrada. Even today it is not considered a good idea to marry out of the contrada, and if you do, it's probably wise to sleep at your parents' house the night before the race. More...

 
       
 
         
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