Like the palio in Siena, Montepulciano has an annual celebration and race, a competition between the eight medieval contrade or neighborhoods. We’re in Cagnino, the dog. The Bravio delle Botti is held on the last Sunday in August. For ten days, the contrade feast in the streets, and all are welcome. The race is held on the last day of the festival. In the Middle Ages, the race was on horseback, but now two young men from each contrada run and roll an empty wine barrel before them along a 1700 meter course which runs through all eight contrade. The winning contrada’s prize is a cloth portraying the image of the town’s patron saint, John the Baptist. This afternoon I went for a walk because I’d been in classes from 8:45 until 1:15. It’s another beautiful day, and as I was returning to my apartment, I saw a father training two boys in the art of barrel running. I could hear and watch them from our window above.
Class is difficult, but I’m getting more comfortable. I really like both teachers. They only speak Italian, but they make sure you understand. Today we began learning the conditional tense, which I already know one word of: vorrei. Whenever you order, you say “vorrei,” which means: I would like. It’s the courteous and conditional tense in Italian, but it has so many letters for some of the conjugations. Consider this word: piacerebbero or dormierremmo. I almost feel as if I’m stuttering! I have lots of compiti a casa or homework, which I’ve done half of. I’m very slow but piano piano, as the Italians say, step by step, my Italian is improving.
Down the Corso, or main road, is a very old clock tower with Pulcinello on the top. Pulcinello is a very old clown or pinocchio-type character who hits the bell each hour. There’s also an old column with a sculpted lion perched on top in the district of the lion.