La Spezia: Gulf Palio
Every year on the first Sunday in August the 13 villages around the gulf of La Spezia compete in the traditional Palio. The competition consists in a 2000-metre challenge between the different crews formed by four rowers and a helmsman and the competition is divided into the women, junior men and senior men categories.
The historical regatta did not begin as a sporting event, but instead was a commercial challenge between fishermen and mussel growers. Every boat tried to precede the competitors in the harbour so as to sell its product first, thus making more money.
The competition was held in 1925, with boats used for fishing. Beginning from 1934 the places on the coast began to use boats conceived on purpose for competing and each was characterized by a number and by the colours of the village to distinguish it from the others.
The feeling of belonging to one’s own territory is strongly rooted in the local populations, which are also differentiated from the others simply by the particulars of the traditions. For instance, the dialect can be entirely different between two bordering hamlets ... In this connection La Spezia demographically exploded after the opening of the military arsenal which brought labour from all over Italy, thus forming a variegated community mirrored in the rivalry in the Palio.