Summer time in Radicondoli begins with a big festival, the Festa di San Giovanni, which dates back to ancient times when farmers all over Tuscany chose the solstice night to ward off evil spirits from their crops by lighting bon fires in their fields. In old times, the vast Val di Cecina was alight with these fires on the third weekend of June. Now it is celebrated with fire jugglers and a street fair that goes on for three days, bringing young and old out of their houses to commune over shared meals in piazza, listen to live music, and shop at the artisan booths that line Via Gazzei, the main street. It is a foreshadowing of the bewitching warm sultry nights to come, when young and old walk arm in arm down the main street at night, when concerts and plays and dance performances fill the piazzas, parks and streets in a week long summer festival at the beginning of August.
And of course, twice each summer there is the Palio di Siena, forty-five minutes east of Radicondoli. This spectacular horse race, which dates back to the 1600s, is run around the Unesco World Heritage designated Piazza del Campo by ten riders wearing their contrada’s colors on bareback horses. More than fifty thousand people cram into the piazza to watch the five days of pagentry, trials and the final race. With the singing, the firing of the starter’s canon, the horses’s hooves thundering, and the collective gasps of thousands as riders are thrown from their horses at the notoriously tight San Martino curve, emotions reach a euphoric pitch by the end of the final night.
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