A Tale of Two Princesses and One Horse

By Santatatiana

August 6, 2012


Category: Abruzzo


Yesterday, my friends and I attended a very interesting festival in the medieaval city of Penne (Abruzzo). We have already visited this beautiful town with Nora of enchantingitaly.blogspot.com and her family two years ago and I wrote two posts about Penne.

There are several scientific hypotheses on the origins of the city. A folk legend has it that the city was founded by the Syrian prince Itarco. He had two beautiful gemini daughters. One of them was a blonde and was named Rocca and another sister was a brunette and was named Bruna. The king provided that Rocca would inherit his throne but Bruna didn’t agree with such a decision. She decided two build her castle on another hill. When Rocca’s sons had destroyed her castle, Bruna declared war on her sister. In order to stop the feuding, the bishop of Penne proposed to settle the dispute at the tournament (palio). Since then, the tournaments were held annually, and the winner ruled the city throughout the year. The tradition was continued as the palio “Rocca Bruna” which used to take place in the city each summer. Not long ago it was suspended and this year the festival was resumed in a more modest scale.

The festival takes place on 2-5 of August in the historic center of the city. Yesterday, it was the culmination of festivities, namely the palio between two teams representing two hills – Colle Sacro and Colle Castello. We came to the Piazza Luca da Penne an hour before the beginning and occupied the strategic point, a table at a cafe on the square just opposite the scene. We ordered a fancy Abruzzian coffee “vetrino” and decided to sip it as long as we could. We were sure that the performance won’t start dead on time but rather according to “Italian time”, as John use to say. Surprisingly, at 19 o’clock sharp, we heard remote sounds of trumpets and drums. After a while, a small procession entered the Piazza. It was headed by a horseman, musicians and flag bearers. In the center of the procession, there were a princess accopmanied by a bishop and a Franciscan. They stopped in the Piazza and the flag bearers showed us their skills of flag juggling. There weren’t very many people in the square, so we managed to do many photos. The cortege left the square but we were sure that it will be back later.

Meanwhile, time passed but nothing happened. I began suspecting that the palio was held in another location far from our observation point. I consulted with passersby and they told me that the palio was supposedly to take place not far away. We rushed there and were just in time to observe the beginning of the palio. Unlike the piazza, there were lots of people there. Many of them were dressed in beautiful medieaval costumes with a slight eastern accent. I liked very much young girls who willingly posed for photos. On two balconies of an ancient house, there were sittng two princesses with their suite.

The master of ceremony explained to the audience the palio’s procedure. According to the rules, each team should be represented by one horseman but actually it was only one horse available. Another horse had a problem with her leg. So the speaker proposed that one and the same rider would present both teams in turn! A first, he galloped three times for each Colle. Then, he tore hanging rings with a lance at full gallop. He managed to reach all three rings for each Colle. So his competition with himself ended in a draw but I think that he was a real winner and a hero of the day.

Notwithstanding this little embarrassment, the public enjoyed the festival. I like the very idea that the citizens have recommenced the palio in the year of severe economic crisis. We hurried to catch the last bus and while waiting it observed magnificent panorama of the Gran Sasso mountain.

My posts about Penne

A Walk in the Town of Medieval Churches

The Ancient Vestine Capital


2 Responses to “A Tale of Two Princesses and One Horse”

  1. Thank you Tatiana for this wonderful account of the palio Rocca Bruna in Penne. We enjoyed the evening there with you very much! It was funny to watch the one rider competing against himself. Hope the other horse will be better for next year!

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