Siena’s Contradas: The Best Neighborhoods in the World

If you’re looking for neighborhoods with deep social bonds and distinctive culture, you can’t beat Siena, Italy’s contradas. Siena, a town roughly the size of Palo Alto, CA (about 65,000), has 17 contradas, hundreds of years old, each with its own flag, songs, mascot, neighborhood club, church, drum and flag waving corps, numerous social events throughout the year, and an unbelievable number of traditions which are actively practiced by all members.

The Palio of Siena, the subject of the video above, is the culmination of life in the contradas. In that video, I describe my personal experience joining one contrada, La Torre, and living through the experience of a lifetime there during the Palio of August 16, 2005. It’s called “The Ecstasy After the Agony.” Be forewarned: it’s 27 minutes long, but I do think it’s quite fascinating…

[By the way, if you want me to write more about Siena’s contradas – for instance, kids’ life there – *please* ask. I’m very passionate about this, but I don’t want to overload you with this topic if it seems a bit tangential. In the meantime, you can read up on it in the seminal book on the Palio. One of the co-authors, Alessandro Falassi, plays a prominent part in the video.]

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