Donkey and Hound
Cocconato d'Asti Donkey Racing
In Italy, palio festivals feature races run by horses or other animals. The animals participating in the race represent the neighbourhoods of a town, which compete against one another in this annual celebration.
The term palio refers to the drape or flag that the winning neighbourhood receives to commemorate the race.
Many palio festivals have medieval roots – including the Palio di Ferrara, which has been run since 1259, and the world-famous Palio di Siena, which has its origins in the 14th century – and they were traditionally organized to celebrate military victories, or simply as a form of local entertainment.
Other palios, such as the Palio degli Asini (donkey palio) in Cocconato d’Asti, have a much more recent history. However, while Cocconato d’Asti’s palio only began in the year 1970, the festival commemorates the town’s medieval history and is a celebration of local legends.
An ancient tale has it that a fire once broke out in the town’s castle.
To save the structure, local citizens formed a human chain between the castle and a stream outside of town, and with the help of donkeys transported water from the stream to the castle to extinguish the flames. When the castle was saved, local lords called for a tournament with a donkey race, and the participants competed for a banner bearing the local family crest.
The modern day competition is held between eight Cocconato d’Asti neighbourhoods, each of which must prepare their portion of the historical procession that precedes the race, and put together a team to run with the donkey that will represent them in the palio.
The race is run on the fourth Sunday of every September, and in the days leading up to the competition the entire town partakes in the festivities.
Local businesses recreate the ambience of a medieval street fair by setting up stands to sell local goods. Medieval games and music are played, wizards, fortune-tellers and fire-eaters perform on the streets, and motor-powered vehicles are banned from the area, all in an attempt to give participants a taste of medieval street life.
The main event takes place on Sunday afternoon and often attracts thousands of spectators from near and far; indeed, Cocconato d’Asti’s Palio degli Asini is one of the most well known annual festivals in the area.Any suggestions?
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