Matthew Hatch and Professor Cinzia Donatelli Noble, French and Italian Department
We researched and prepared a travel itinerary (booklet) mainly for students who study abroad and fulfill academic internships to Siena, Italy, and it will serve tourists traveling through BYU travel services. This booklet is still being finalized, but it is in the process of being published. Siena is a diverse and unique city because it is divided into competing districts. The competition, which started more than 400 years ago, fostered an environment where the competing districts always tried to outdo their municipal others. Consequentially, the architecture, arts, music, festivals, etc. in each district are superb. My task was to research the attractions of each district and give exact addresses, opening times and prices of museums, advice on restaurants, etc and organize it in the booklet so that it would be easily accessible to tourists and students who study abroad.
My mentor, Cinzia Noble is Italian. She has been working with the study abroad program to Siena for over five years. Also she is involved with the academic internships to Siena. The Kennedy Center has asked her to personally be in charge of the research involved. Because the project is daunting to do by oneself, it was fortunate that I and some other students approached her asking for ideas for a research project. I was involved in the research, writing and editing of the booklet. Most (or all) of the information on the districts is in Italian. I am fluent in Italian, but it was a great help to have Cinzia as a mentor to help me understand historical contexts and unfamiliar vocabulary. As an English major I was helpful in editing her drafts (Cinzia’s mothertongue is Italian). In this way, we were able to help each other.
There are seventeen districts in Siena and all of the districts have a mascot that represents them—she-wolf, unicorn, giraffe, snail, turtle, eagle, etc. These districts have been bitter rivals for centuries. Some districts are allied with another to give them advantage over a common rival. The natives take these rivalries seriously. A person born in Siena gets baptized into the district in which they were born. Each district has its own fountain, baptismal font, cathedral, museum, etc. Over the centuries they have competed in building the all-around best district, but they also formally compete twice a year in the central square of the city. In the beginning the districts would come together for a medieval joust. The winner of the competition won a decorated flag (il palio) that they could brag about until the next competition.
Today, the proud members of the districts flood into the central square to see who will win the bareback horse race. It is a dangerous race as the jockeys and horses fly around the corners. The third corner is especially sharp and is the cause of many injuries. For this purpose, the horses and jockeys are blessed by a Catholic priest before the race begins. Emotions run high a week prior to the race and reach an apex in the crowded square. I talked to a family whose mother belongs to the Tower District and whose father belongs to the Silk-worm District; one week before the race, they separate because emotions are so high. The rest of the year they get along perfectly well, but before the race, they cannot stay together. This one family is emblematic of the city; when the race comes around everyone goes back to the district where they were baptized. Right after the race, no matter who wins, the city goes back to normal and the cross-district tensions relax.
I was assigned specific neighborhoods to research: the Silk-worm and the Giraffe. Historically, the Noble Silk-worm District was the place where the silk and wool workers gathered to create clothes and crafts. They became gifted in their craft and their merchandise created an economic boom which pulled their section out of poverty. That is why they are named after the silk-worm (or Caterpillar), and have its image on their banner. Today there are still those who practice the same art in that part of the city. The Silk-worm District is in the North- East of the city and includes a gate that leads outside walled city. The Silk-worm District had its own gate in and out of the city, which facilitated trade. It became famous for a weekly open market, where members of the section would set up stands outside of the city walls to sell their fabrics.
It is a “noble” district because of the man Francesco d’Agnolo, nicknamed “Barbicone.” He led the armed forces of the Caterpillar into battle and defeated Emperor Charles IV of Bohemia in 1369. He also led an uprising in 1371, which brought more political power for the common people. Because of that, the city of Siena was grateful and awarded the District with the dignitary status of nobility. Since then, the Caterpillar District, notwithstanding its small size, has proved a valiant defender of the city and a formidable competitor in the Palio.
In the booklet we included a short history of each district like the one above and then we organized directions for a half-day walk which points out the most important sites of the district. For the Caterpillar District, the “walk” starts at Salimbeni Palace then leads the tourist through the square to a statue of Sallustio Bandini and briefly describes his historical worth. Guiding the tourist east, we noted a Libreria Feltrinelli if the vacationer is interested in books. Next comes the elegant Ristorante Medio Evo built in the 13th century if the traveller wants to enjoy the ambiance of Medieval Italy (with a hall of ancient artifacts) while eating lunch or dinner. Leaving the restaurant you can find an artisan gold and silver jewelry shop. It is worth looking into even if you cannot afford the jewelry. The booklet continues in this way guiding the traveller from one point of interest to another while providing historical contexts that often cannot be found on site and open times and relative costs.
I did a similar walk for the Giraffe district, and my mentor and others did likewise until we finished researching and started compiling our research and organizing it into booklet form. We had to cut out much of the information and focus on what was the most important. The publishing process is taking some time, but we hope that it will be published so that the study abroad students and tourists can have the booklet to take with them and enjoy the rich history of the ancient city.