Post-Palio at the Lupa Contrada

I took a walk to the Lupa contrada on Wednesday to see how the members, the Lupaioli, were celebrating their historic Palio win.

Quick refresher: Lupa (She-wolf) is one of 17 contrade, or districts, in Siena, Italy. The Palio is the city’s medieval, traditional horse race that takes place twice a year: July 2 and August 16.  Lupa won in the final seconds on Saturday. They hadn’t won a Palio in 27 years.

And that fact has proposed a bit of a challenge for some Lupaioli, who are younger than 28 and in charge of organizing all the logistics surrounding the victory celebrations, which include dinners and parades with various themes. “Young people like me haven’t done it before,” said Giulio, 28, who struck me as being sort of the general manager of the place.   “We have no idea what to do.”

Giulio, the general manager in charge of the Lupa contrada sits in front of the Palio banner currently on display in the Lupa’s church. We like the dog statue too.

From what I saw on Wednesday, I think they’re going to be fine winging it. They were getting ready for another parade to the Piazza del Campo, this time dressed up as doctors and nurses. They were playing off the theme of the July 2 Palio, misericordia, or mercy, benevolence. I get it, I think. Anyway, there was a party going on in the contrada’s yard, there was drinking and dancing and smiles all around. I asked Giulio how long the celebrations may go on. “Until we’re tired,” he said, “or at least until the August Palio.”

Then Giulio and the gang have to prepare for the victory dinner in the fall. These contrada dinners bring more than 1,500 people, depending on the size of the contrada.

Giulio showed me around the contrada’s church and museum. The museums are interesting places to visit because they house historical costumes, victory banners and other artifacts that tell the story of the contrada. Obviously things weren’t returned yet to their proper places in the museum, for good reason. The flags, the costumes, the shoes, the drums, the coat of arms looked like the backstage area of a Broadway show, everything in its place, ready for the next event. It was a treat to see all of this in its post-victory glory.

The costumes for the Lupa members who participate in the Corteo Storico, the pre-Palio march, are cooling off after Saturday’s win.

Giulio watched the race from under the bleachers where the contrada members who were in the pre-Palio pageantry sit. Lupa won after the final turn, with about 100 meters to go, maybe less. He said the events after that moment were kind of a blur and he didn’t start remembering the race or anything else until the next day.

Cheers to you Lupa!

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