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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Palio di San Ranieri

Summer in Italy means its time for boat races! Head up to the Pisa area to partake in the Palio San Ranieri (San Ranieri is the patron saint of Pisa) scheduled for June 16 and 17.

Four districts compete in the race with each boat a different color to represent a district. Each row boat has a steersman, a climber, and eight oarsmen struggling against the current.

The finishing line is a boat anchored at Palazzo Medici, a location decided in 1737 upon the request of the Duke of Montelimar, who was staying in one of the palaces there. The climbers must scale one of four cables to the top of the boat’s 10m mast and grab a paliotto (triangular, silk banner). The blue banner indicates first place, white is second, and red is third. The winners receive an animal such as an ox or a rooster; the losers are awarded with a pair of goslings and torrents of abuse from onlookers.

The regatta was originally celebrated during the Assumption and moved to St. Ranieri’s feast day in 1718. The night before the race 70,000 candles in glass holders are hung from buildings and along bridges, palaces and churches overlooking the river. Join the locals for a celebration of fireworks at midnight.

Ciao e a presto,