Two nights before Siena's Palio horse race, the Dragon district gathers for dinner. I'm wearing the Dragon colors, in the backyard of the Church of San Domenic, enjoying a multigenerational party. Each banquet is beautifully situated in the heart of the district. Even if I don't fully understand what's happening, the excitement is contagious, and the wine is delightful.
With the horses and jockeys chosen, competing neighborhoods gather for big communal dinners that last well into the night. The excitement builds, and it's a multigenerational affair -- some people revving up for their 100th Palio (two per year for 50 years)...and others for their first. There are rousing choruses, with everyone cheering their contrada, and little ones soaking up the traditions -- a scene that's changed little over the centuries.
Looking out my hotel window, I was impressed at how the Panther contrada throws a big dinner party. With legions of volunteers, they set up, served, partied until late, and then cleaned the entire thing up in a flash. The next morning, you wouldn't know there was a big dinner filling the square just last night.
This is Day 94 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I'm reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, Siena, and beyond. Find more on my travel blog.
(This post originally appeared at blog.ricksteves.com/blog/palio-dinner-party.)