the young caterpillars
Title Photo Credit: Paolo Giachetti, 2008
The Modern Caterpillars: growing up in the Bruco Contrada
While the 21st century youth is often considered as social media and electronic device addicts, the young members of the contrade (districts) of Siena are very different. The children of the city eagerly participate and carry out century-old traditions, simply because, “It is life.”
From drum or flag throwing practice, artistic performances, sports, festivals, to volunteer service within one’s district, the ways in which young contradaiolo can be involved are countless and rest at the core of the contrada’s existence.
Growing up in a contrada is a slow assumption of the responsibilities that make it function, Tomasso Ruscitti, 26, explains. “As a little kid, your only worry is to follow the elders, to learn how to play the traditional drum or how to swirl he traditional flag,” Ruscitti says. “After a while when you reach these little spots, you have the privilege of being useful. You start to actively live the contrada life, you serve the dinners, you join the group that is for youngsters.”
Once a young adult and from that point on, Ruscitti says, volunteering for larger responsibilities like that of making orders to the distributors of wine and drink for the bar, or arranging the food and preparing it for mass, weekly dinners is customary.
However, no matter one’s age, the contrada is meant to be a social place.
“A connection between people,” explains Paolo Guazzi, 36, who grew up and actively participated in the Bruco. “This is the most beautiful issue of the contrada. Really, it’s the relationships that people make, there is not a big social difference. Everyone is the same. Elder people are respected and when they talk, they talk of the old history of Palios, and the young people participate…there is no difference in age in this case.”
by Tea Francesca Price
While from the outside it may seem that this sentiment could perhaps only felt by adults, two, young boys, Edoardo Massari, 9, and Gabriele Ceccanti, 12, expressed the same perspective. Explaining how they, in fact, attend different schools and have an age difference, Ceccanti said the contrada is a meeting place.
“For us the contrada is a place where we can gather, children and adults alike,” Ceccanti explained, “And you can meet new friends because you meet the friends of your friends…this networking of friendship strengthens the care for the contrada.”
More than just a neighborhood or a place to send one’s children, the contrada nurtures particular values such as loyalty and respect starting at a very young age; it is this which grows into the passion and desire to participate in the future, contradaioli say.
"Older generations are always trying to help the younger generations understand the significance of the word ‘contrada’,” Paolo Giachetti, a member of the Bruco explains. “In this more modern society, the contrada [Bruco] and all the contrade must exert a bit more effort to continue the traditions and continue to hand them down.”
Ceccanti said at age nine, he was asked to participate in the Bruco’s Festa Titolare—a festival held by each individual contrada at different times of the year—which he gratefully accepted. During this time, he was able to dress in the traditional, medieval costume and join in the official procession through the city.
“Thanks to the gruppo piccoli and those responsible for that group of children in the contrada… I was invited to participate,” Ceccanti said. “This particular event, I was very touched; it’s an emotion we Sienese experience every year whether we as a contrada are running in the Palio or not.”
Hearing the youth of the Bruco describe the contrada as “family” and the Palio as an event that “moves their hearts every July and August,” it is simple to understand why the traditions of the Bruco and all of the contrade of Siena continue to thrive.
"A short film from 2010, made by the "Gruppo Giovani" of the Bruco Contrada for the BarbiCortone short-film festival reserved for the youth of siena's 17 contrade."