Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Palio rehearsal in Ferrara: the Italian Diaries (part III)

I always fancied attending a palio, but never had a chance. Imagine my delight when completely unexpectedly we happened to be in the midst of the palio rehearsal by one of Ferrara's city boroughs.

The history of Ferrara palio goes back to 1259, when marquis Azzo the 7th Novello d'Este held the very first palio to celebrate his victory over Ezzelino da Romano ar Cassano D'Adda. It took 20 years for this event to become one of the city's institutions. The Palio got its own statute, which proclaimed that it would be celebrated twice a year, on 23 April to honour Ferrara's patron saint, St George, and on 15 August to honour the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
The word palio means a piece of cloth, and that was the first prize for the winner of the race.Apparently the 2nd and the 3rd prize winners won a salami and a cockerel accordingly.

My guys and I were sitting in our favourite pasticceria Leon d'Oro, enjoying a cup of latte and most delicious pastries, when we heard the commotion outside, and the first members of the colourful procession made their entry. I grabbed Eddie and a camera and ran out, leaving Sasha with my husband behind (Sasha is not a fan of big crowds).

I sighed with pleasure at the most splendid sight of the colourful costumes. We have admired the procession of ladies and lords, knights and men-at-arms, flag-bearers and pages, drummers and trumpeters. They were moving from the Cathedral to the square in a stately manner.

It was a glimpse of the celebration of the glory of Ferrara's history, when the court of Ferrara played an important part in the development of Renaissance art and culture.
The small principality of Ferrara was ruled by the Este family. The silent statue of Borso d'Este is still watching the city.

The participants were dressed in silks and velvets and moved gracefully and in a dignified manner, even the young children played the part. I'm not sure if the couple below were supposed to represent the Duke and his Duchess, there was nobody to ask. I can only guess they were the noble couple.

Eddie was totally smitten with the clothes and sounds of the palio, and kept talking for days about "singing and dancing". I wish I could buy a costume like that for him, but all these clothes are homemade.

And I confess, if I were given a chance to dress up in a Renaissance dress and parade across the town, I would have jumped at the opportunity without a second of hesitation.

If you want to find out more about the palio in Ferrara, visit their site Il Palio di Ferrara (they have an English version for those who cannot read the Italian one).

I'm adding my post to the #PoCoLo linky on the lovely Verily, Victoria Vocalises blog.


  1. Wow, looks amazing - definitely a case of being in the right place at the right time ! :)

  2. That looks fabulous, would love to have been there

  3. That looks brilliant, I'd never heard of a Palio before, what a wonderful thing to get to experience!

  4. This looks so colourful, beautiful and lots of fun. I too have never heard of a Palio so thank you for sharing this post and linking up to PoCoLo - welcome on board xx

  5. This looks great, would love to see more of Italy, sadly only really saw a lot of airports when I was working there. #PoCoLo

  6. I'd never heard of a Palio, it looks so beautiful and fun. I would love to be able to travel and see more of the world. Fantastic experience x #PoCoLo

  7. That looks amazing such fantastic outfits and colours, i think i would prefer the 2nd and 3rd prize more than the 1st!

  8. Now you see that is exactly why PoCoLo works. I get to read amazing blog posts I would never have come across normally. The colours and the tradition is fabulous.