The Asti Palio
The Asti Palio is about many things, but above all it is about sounds, sounds that echo through the city for 12 months, sounds that are the rhythm of a whole community.
Although it is true that the big day is indeed the day of the race and the charming historical parade, in the months leading up to it, if you pay attention, the city resounds with the Palio and even in the coldest and most foggy nights you can hear the muffled notes of the clarions, the drum roll and the rustle of flags cutting through the air: you can spot the young people from the local boroughs, musicians and flag-wavers, who are practising in the squares and preparing for the big day, the most eagerly awaited event of the year.
The people of Asti are reserved and do not make a din, they respect each other and so you don't perceive that atmosphere of tension that precedes great challenges. They just do their preparation in a serious way and with team spirit. In the committees in the aftermath of the event, those who have won enjoy a few days of revelry. The losers, on the other hand, immediately start all over again: they close ranks, choose the theme of next year's parade, line up the seamstresses to prepare the costumes, and try to court the best horses and the most promising jockeys.
And then, there are the September echoes: the clarions, drums and the waving of colourful flags are joined by the clattering of horses' hooves as they reach the parish churchyard to receive the blessing. And what about that rustling? It is the heavy velvet dresses worn by the ladies in the parade scraping on the cobbled streets. There is no lack of voices, especially the joyful and excited voices of the children, because there is no Palio without a future, no Palio without the fresh enthusiasm of those who one day will continue this centuries-long tradition.
These are the sounds that precede the exciting race: 21 rope horses at the canapo, competing in three heats and a final. They are as beautiful as ever, sleek, alive and kicking: they are the real protagonists of this ancient game. The horses are ridden by minute jockeys, but the best are those who can make themselves understood, those who whisper. The tension rises: everyone shut up, it is time to gallop! The hooves penetrate the track and you can feel the horse’s vibrant energy and its perfection. Three laps around the track and only at the finish line does the people in the square breathe again and then literally explode: there are those who rejoice and those who despair. Tears flow: whether of joy or despair, yet they make no sound, not at all, nevertheless this is the Asti Palio and it has been a source of emotion, every year, for the last ten centuries.