I have already published a post on Palio in Ferrara but this time I have something special for you. One of the participants agreed to share her experiences with us! Maria Elena Peverati who was a chief of costume department for couple of years and she is also an author (painter) of three Palio- the main prize in a horse race competition. Here is her story.
Palio From Within
If I think about Palio my mind instantly creates pictures: the city of Ferrara becomes lively, colorful and loud. Picture of noblemen, picture of color flags, picture of coat of arms of the particular contrada: it’s ALL there! Every year in May history and traditions come to life. Ferrara reminds the glorious time of the Este domination when it was one of the most admired renaissance court in Italy. The palio is not just a horse race but a year of work to perform the best drum & flag exercise, to act the best characters or just to wear a perfect renaissance dress and, last but not least, to win one of the four races. This is a huge challenge to all participants: performance of a good, safe and emotional show.
One of the most emotional memories referred to Palio is the sound of drums and trumpets. It’s not unusual the hear the drums from a considerable distance even in cold and foggy evening. That’s the sure sign that the tryouts have started. In the winter season the sbandieratori (men responsible for the flags’ throwing competition) practice at the Piazza Municipale in order to prepare a perfect performance. Only passion gives these boys the strenght to go out in the winter to freeze while practicing instead of laying on the sofa in front of the TV. When you see them all dressed in contrada uniformes, playing together and moving to the same pulse like soldiers, you feel their energy, their happiness and their pride and you know their efforts are well paid back.
When you witness their hard working, their careful preparations and their engagement you can feel the growing excitement. ‘Electricity in the air’ turns to madness in a competition day. These people are really IN this event with all their hearts and minds.
Noble Woman- My Story
As a citizen of Ferrara I had an opportunity to act as a noble woman of the Este Court. I remember this experience mostly through the colors: variety of the flags’ colors when they are thrown up in the air, colors of the precious fabrics we use to sew our dresses, the magic color of fire and the architecture of our renaissance town mixing perfectly with the characters of the evening parade.
Wearing a reinassance dress was an exceptional experience and I think that all women should try it at least once in their lifetime! When a dress is well tied on you it’s like magic and you feel you’re living in the old times. The sound made by velvet, the long skirt swishing back and forth following my steps, and the way I walked: all made me feel like a noble woman.
Playing a noble woman of the este Court is the real spirit of the performe during the evening parade. Acting like a real noble is tricky! You need to walk along the street not just to be seen but also admired. The spectators are watching your every step! A noble women should smile to please but she should never waive her hand …. nobles don’t do that!!!
The night of the parade (two separate events: Iscrizione delle Contrade and Omaggio al Duca) is like getting ready to your own wedding: dress, jewels, makeup, shoes, and hairstyle must be perfect. Sometimes at the end of May, when the events are taking place, it’s already warm, therefore, wearing a velvet dress is a real torture but the emotion of being part of Palio is priceless so you easily forget the heat.
Being a noble woman once in a lifetime is very exciting and I’ll never forget it.
Have you ever thought about visiting Italy? Here is an alternative way on how to visit Italy and get really close to the Italian way of life. I created a project ‘I love Ferrara‘ so you could join me and experience how beautiful and tasty Ferrara is. If you wish to immerse in Italy book your holiday now!