In La Spezia, Liguria, spring starts a few days earlier than in the rest of the world. The date is March 16th, to be exact, when thirteen boats – one for each of the municipalities in the province that face the Gulf of the Poets – compete in the stretch of water in front of Passeggiata Morin. Contestants row a 2,000-meter race, giving their all to win the historical Palio di San Giuseppe.
The season of new beginnings is announced by the roar of the throng crowding the promenade along the shore. The starting pistol is fired, and immediately the competing crews (four oarsmen and one steersman for each craft) start a concert for vigorous muscles, tempestuous oars, accelerated heartbeats, and rhythmical voices. A ‘vivacissimo’ concert that lasts only a little over ten minutes, ending in a triumphal march for the winners. As always, this year’s Palio will have Junior, Women’s, and Senior divisions compete for victory – with Borgata Marola’s Senior team defending its 2013 title.
The Palio di San Giuseppe is only the first of the events in the run-up to the actual Palio, held on the first Sunday of August. It is followed by a series of competitions in the spring and early summer, involving thirteen special fishing boats from municipalities in La Spezia.
The race is a tradition that has renewed itself year after year – with few exceptions – since 1925, and a unique, lively show that proves a must-see at every new, exciting edition.