History and traditions of the people of Siena.
The city of Siena is historically divided into 17 contrade (neighbourhoods), which are located within the three areas in which the city is divided: Terzi di Città, Terzi di San Martino and Terzi di Camollia.
The 17 contrade were defined in 1729 in a ‘borders proclamation’ by Governor Violante Beatrice of Bavaria and are: Aquila (Eagle), Bruco (Caterpillar), Chiocciola (Snail), Civetta (Owl), Drago (Dragon), Giraffa (Giraffe), Istrice (Porcupine), Leocorno (Unicorn), Lupa (She-wolf), Nicchio (Shell), Oca (Goose), Onda (Wave), Pantera (Panther), Selva (Forest), Tartuca (Turtle), Torre (Tower), Valdimontone (Ram Valley).
In addition to its territory with well-defined borders, the Contrada is represented above all by its people, know locally as ‘contradaioli’. Belonging to a contrada is defined by: place of birth, when one is born in that particular territory and is therefore considered a native; descendence, in the case of children born to parents belonging to a certain contrada even if they weren’t born there;
Congeniality: allows those who don’t belong to the previous categories to choose ‘by congeniality’ a contrada and become its member, paying a protectorate and actively participating in its life. To really get to know the history of a contrada, you must visit its museum. Each contrada has its own museum that holds unique treasures and curiosities related to the contrada, as well as a collection of the Palio trophies, designed by great artists. One of the contrada museums even houses a ‘drapery’ painted by the great master of contemporary art, Fernando Botero. We won’t reveal the name of the contrada and we’ll leave it to you to discover.
Generally, you can find these ‘trophies’ in the Hall of Victories of every museum. The ‘Drappellone’ or ‘Palio’, which the Sienese call the ‘cencio’, is a silk banner decorated with an original painting by several artists that at the end of the Palio is delivered to the victorious group. Also in the Hall of Victories, one can admire the ‘masgalani’, awarded to the best performer in terms of elegance and coordination in the historical procession, a solemn moment preceding the race.
Each contrada museums also has a section dedicated to religious tradition with valuable works of sacred art from the contrada church or oratory. In addition to vestments, church furnishings and ‘trophies’, the contrada museums also preserve the traditional costumes worn throughout history and ancient flags.