Hidden treasures

When the 'drappellone' in Siena was stolen…

Historical Curiosities

When the 'drappellone' in Siena was stolen…

Usually, the Palio in Siena takes place twice a year: on July 2nd in honor of the Madonna of Provenzano and August 16th in honor of the Assumption of Mary. But in exceptional circumstances, it can be decided to stage 'Exceptional Palios'. Some examples? One was held in 1969 to celebrate the landing of man on the moon. What we want to tell you about today is instead the Palio of September 23rd, 1967. It was held in honor of the 59th Congress of the Italian Society for the Progress of Sciences. Actually, not everyone agreed that this event deserved a special Palio. So much so that the Porcupine district, which rejected its justification, decided not to participate. In fact, the 1967 Palio was mired in controversy and also affected by a robbery.

What happened was that someone stole the 'drappellone'! Do you know what this is? It is the trophy that is to be delivered to the contrada (i.e. district) that wins the race. It is an original painting on a piece of silk of a specific size made by artists of national and international fame. In 1967 the drappellone, also called 'cencio' by the Siena people, was painted by Bruno Marzi. While being kept in the Church of San Virgilio, it was mysteriously stolen. Since the Palio cannot take place without the 'drappellone', the best solution people came up with was to hoist on the cart a white drape with the tiny sketch of the stolen drappellone attached to it. Better than nothing! Victory was seized by the Giraffe contrada which then took home what had by now become the 'Palio of the bozzetto' (Italian for sketch) for the customary celebrations.

It was at this point that the mystery of the stolen ‘cencio’ was unveiled. Do you want to know who stole it? Some goliards from Bologna had decided to pull a prank on the contradaioli of Siena. Perhaps then they realized what they had done and called the inhabitants of the Giraffe district and promised they would return the prize. They even suggested having a toast together to celebrate the victory. Perhaps what the goliards were not aware of is that in Siena you can mess about with anything bar the Palio! No chance to have a toast together! The contradaioli asked the goliards to leave the Palio in a pre-established place and to then vanish away.

A final interesting fact! In the museum of the Giraffa contrada, both the palio painted by Marzi and the so-called ‘del bozzetto’ one are exhibited. As we all know, the museums of the districts keep many interesting relics, each with its history and its collection of anecdotes and amazing facts. Would you like to visit them? So take advantage of our 'Exclusive dinner in Contrada', a unique experience to fully take in the spirit of the Palio.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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