Twice a year, each July and August, Siena readies itself for the big horse race (in which 10 of its 17 neighborhoods -- chosen by lottery -- will compete). Siena's central square, Il Campo, is transformed into a medieval racetrack. Tons of clay is packed atop the cobbles, padding is added to the treacherous corners, and bleachers and railings are set up in anticipation of the big day.
In Siena (as you'll see in the photos at the end of this clip), the police were out in force, with busloads converging on the town center, lines of security troops checking anyone entering the square, and (of course) bars busy with heavily armed cops getting their cappuccino. It's all part of the festive mix.
Security is on high alert at any big event in Europe these days. And I appreciate the security. The first decades of my life were spent in a Cold War, where our very existence was at risk. I'm resigned to the fact that my last decades will be spent in a world where terrorism is the new norm. The way I see it, we're all combatants. And, rather than give up our freedom of movement, we'll suffer random hits -- which get way more attention than they merit, rewarding and therefore encouraging more such attacks. "Soft targets" such as festivals will be ringed by ever more effective security, and life -- for the vast majority of us -- will go on.
This is Day 91 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I'm reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, Siena, and beyond. Find more on my travel blog.
(This post originally appeared at blog.ricksteves.com/blog/palio-security.)