Historic Palio protest gets go ahead in Siena

Authorities in Siena have given the green light to the first ever anti-Palio protest to take place in the city during Italy's most famous horse race.

Historic Palio protest gets go ahead in Siena
The protest will be the first to take place in Siena during the event. Photo: Fabio Muzzi

The protest has been organized by the Italian extra-parliamentary animal rights group, Partito Animalista Europeo (PAE).

The activists were yesterday granted permission to protest during the second and last race of the year, known as il Palio dell'Assunta, which will be run on August 16th.

The animal rights group was delighted with the permission to organize a protest. PAE President Stefano Fuccelli wrote a note in which he called the decision “a new historical precedent against an event that has previously been seen as untouchable”.

The historic horse race, in which horses representing the 17 suburbs of the city race three times around Siena's central Piazza del Campo, dates back to 1656.

However, in recent years there has been increasing calls for the race to be banned on grounds of animal cruelty.

Since 1970, some 50 horses have died as a result of the Palio. The last Palio death occurred on June 29th this year when the seven-year-old filly Periclea was put down after falling during a heat for the first Palio which took place on July 2nd.

As much as the animal rights group was hailing their right to protest as a historic victory, it will only be allowed to protest at a site that is 6km away from Piazza del Campo.

Nonetheless, according to the Facebook group for the event, “Basta Palio”, some 1.800 people have confirmed that they will attend the protest so far and a further 9,000 have been invited.

Members of the group have left several comments against the Palio, with some calling it “the great shame of Italy”, while supporters of the competition have posted comments in the group in favour of the Palio, branding the protesters “hypocrites”.

With tensions running so high, the prefect of Siena, Renato Saccone, has warned protesters not to create trouble and not to venture into the city centre on the day of the protest.

“The right to protest has been granted,” Saccone told La Repubblica. “But the protest can only be carried out according to strict guidelines and without disturbing public order.” 

During the race the jockeys ride their horses bareback, pushing, shoving and whipping their opponents to try and gain the upper hand in front of crowds of up to 50,000 spectators.

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Italy’s Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report

Ex-PM Matteo Renzi would like to see former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi become prime minister of Italy, a party source told Reuters on Sunday.

Italy's Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report
Matteo Renzi. Image: Andreas Solaro/ POOL / AFP

“I would say that is one of our proposals,” confirmed the source, who declined to be named.

The Italian government collapsed last week when PM Giuseppe Conte resigned. The former coalition allies are currently trying to come to an agreement and sort out their differences.

The centre-left government had been in turmoil ever since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party earlier this month, a move that forced Conte to step down this week.

During the past year, Renzi frequently criticised Conte’s management of the pandemic and economic crisis.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper also reported on Sunday that President Sergio Mattarella was considering Draghi for the prime ministerial role. However, Mattarella’s office promptly denied this, saying there had been no contact between them.

So far, there has been no comment from Draghi, who hasn't been seen much in the public eye since 2019.

Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, gave ruling parties more time on Friday to form a new government, after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. 

Coalition parties Italia Viva, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement must come to an agreement to allow the government to heal. 

Renzi, a former prime minister himself, has pubilcly stated that he does not want to talk about who should lead the next government at this stage, reasoning that the parties need to agree on a way forward first.

“Any effort today to fuel a discussion about Draghi is offensive to Draghi and above all to the president of the republic,” Renzi said in an interview published on Sunday with Corriere della Sera.

A senior Italia Viva lawmaker also told Reuters that “If the president gives a mandate to Draghi, we would certainly support this”. 

Renzi, whose party is not even registering three percent support in opinion polls, quit the coalition over Conte’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his plans for spending more than 200 billion euros from a European Union fund to help Italy’s damaged economy.

READ ALSO: Why do Italy's governments collapse so often?