Today we woke up early for our full-day excursion to the illustrious city of Siena and the wonderful art, museums, and cuisine it has to offer. The city is unique in that it is broken up into 17 contrade, a system that dates back to medieval times. Each of these contrade acts like its very own district and comes with it its own identity and borders, represented by an animal mascot. The diverse personalities of the contrade come to a head twice a year when they compete against one another in the Palio.
The Palio is a bareback horse race that occurs on July 2nd and August 16th of every year. The competition is held around the Piazza del Camp where thousands of spectators come to watch and support their respective contrade. The event is an ingrained cultural aspect of the city and means much more than just a simple horse race to the passionate inhabitants of the city.
Other highlights of our trip include the Basilica Cateriniana, the Duomo di Siena, and the Santa Maria dei Servi. The Basilica Cateriniana is particular noteworthy for being the holy site for pilgrimages in the Middle Ages and for the incorruptible head of St. Catherine encased within its walls.
Upon arriving back in Florence, our night was far from over as we led the students to a local dance club to experience a small taste of the Florentine social scene. There was a lot of jumping and cutting loose among the students and they all appreciated the welcome change of pace. We crawled back to the hotel exhausted from a long night of dancing and fell gratefully into our comfy beds. There is still so much of Florence to see and we will need all of the energy we can get.