Italian traditions: The contest of Asti
- WTI Magazine #119 Sep 15, 2019
Every year in September the "Palio (contest) di Asti" is run: the oldest in Italy, it is an ancient tradition from the eight century, a real festival, which has kept unchanged its distinctive traits, qualities that have helped to make it a unique performance.
The charm of the medieval history lives through the town districts and its places, including churches, towers and palaces, untouched witnesses of when Asti was shining, for its richness and vitality, among the most important cities of Italy and Europe. The Palio, a large velvet cloth with the insignia of Asti and the depiction of the patron saint San Secondo, is the dream and the award to which twenty-one contenders aspire.
The feast day begins with the blessing of horses and jockeys, and with a fascinating display of the flag-wavers, followed in the afternoon by the magnificent historical procession consisting of over 1200 characters who in their precious costumes, authentic jewels of artisan tailoring, recall facts and historical events that actually happened in Asti during the Middle Ages. The historical parade of the Palio di Asti is a reminiscent picture that, for the fidelity of historical research, the care of the realization and the wealth of the contents, is probably unequaled both in Italy and in the world.
At the end of the historic procession begins the spirited race that ignites passion in the City of Asti, and for the twenty-one participants begins a sort of "terrible agony" that lasts for three heats and the final: seven horses for each heat, and nine for the final, with thousands of villagers who all hope in the miracle of victory.
Since last year, the date of the race of the Palio of Asti is the first Sunday of September. In addition, this year to celebrate the 1900th anniversary of the Palio, the Mayor Maurizio Rasero has proposed to organize two palii. One dedicated to the race of Borghi and Rioni of the city and one dedicated entirely to the municipalities of the Asti province participating in the Palio.