Superlative Spectacle at Gallicano’s Palio di San Jacopo

The Palio di San Jacopo, Gallicano’s patron saint, always occurs on 25th July every year. This extraordinary event, where allegorical floats are preceded by fantastically costumed participants enacting complex choreographies, has been going since 1972 and, apart from a few instances when it was cancelled, has been growing from strength to strength. This year the Palio was exceptionally fabulous and anyone who missed it truly missed a great deal.

Like other Italian palii there is a competition between various rioni to compete for the prize. Gallicano has three rioni today (there used to be four). They are Borgo Antico, Monticello and Bufali.

Each year a new theme is given to the three rioni. This year it was ‘The Power of the Sun’. The prize of the palio is a special coloured cloth called ‘il cencio’.

What is so incredible is the wonderful creativity and imagination a small town like Gallicano in the middle of a remote valley can muster for its Palio. Everyone has a chance to contribute with their skills, no matter what age. For a whole year before the actual palio (and especially during the long winters) ideas are thrashed out, designs produced, costumes made. There’s sewing, cutting, pasting with every conceivable material available. Floats are meticulously built up and mechanized in a special warehouse dedicated to the palio. It’s a sort of mountain version of Viareggio but with a greater emphasis on spectacle and with universal world themes rather than sometimes heavy political satire.

The sheer love and resourcefulness put into the Gallicano palio is quite extraordinary and demonstrates fully the ability of Italians to get together, lay aside differences and produce something which I truly feel is of an international standard and equals some of the best shows of the world’s capital cities.

After a procession of the floats through Gallicano’s narrow streets the event takes place in the natural arena below the church.

The first rione to present its spectacle was IL Borgo Antico with a subtitle ‘Multiverso’.

The second was Monticelli with the subtitle ‘the biggest show after the Big Bang.’

The third was Bufali with ‘the legend of Garfagnana’s birth’.

I thought Bufali would have won but instead it was the Borgo antico. Here are the jury’s decision based on these criteria:

CLASSIFICA TOTALE VOCE TEMA: (Theme presentation)
1° BUFALI 5 PUNTI
2° MONTICELLO 4 PUNTI
2° BORGO ANTICO 3 PUNTI

CLASSIFICA TOTALE VOCE SFILATA: (Procession)
1° BORGO ANTICO 6 PUNTI
2° MONTICELLO 3 PUNTI
3° BUFALI 3 PUNTI

CLASSIFICA TOTALE VOCE CARRO: (Float)
1° BORGO ANTICO 6 PUNTI
2° MONTICELLO 4 PUNTI
3° BUFALI 2 PUNTI

PUNTEGGIO FINALE: (Final points)
BORGO ANTICO 15 PUNTI
MONTICELLO 11 PUNTI
BUFALI 10 PUNTI

After the wonderful spectacles presented by Gallicano’s three rioni, (frankly, I thought they should all have first prize!) we were treated to a splendid fireworks display. I ascended to the old church of San Jacopo in front of which the fireworks were to be set off.  The launching pad was only a few metres away – I’d never been so close to seeing rockets actually taking off!

It was quite awesome but also very noisy and a little terrifying! I thought that if this was great fun for us for others in less peaceful parts of the world it was, sadly, a spectacle they had to witness every day under the name of bombardments and death.

The sun is life, however, and Gallicano and its inhabitants did themselves proud that evening with one of the very best of its Palii I’ve ever seen.  It was an absolute treat for all those three thousand+plus lucky enough to have been there and was fully written up in the region’s papers giving Gallicano well-deserved publicity for a comune which not so long ago was dying on its feet but is now a model example of enterprise and strong future vision.

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3 thoughts on “Superlative Spectacle at Gallicano’s Palio di San Jacopo

  1. The second ‘rione’ in the article is actually the rione Monticello 🙂 Bufali is the last one with the dragons 🙂

  2. I was lucky enough to ‘happen’ across this wonderful event in 2015 but missed it last year, sadly.
    What struck me – apart from the amazing floats and costumes- was the precision of all the participants’ movements and The range of ages. They must have rehearsed for months!!!

    I will be there this year without doubt but it sounds as if they only perform each story once now, in front of the church. In 2015, they performed three times each, once in each piazza , which meant everyone could find a good viewpoint.

    Could anyone tell me the answer to this please and also, I believe that the event took place on two dates in July. Please could someone confirm this for me too.
    Grazie

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