CONTRADA OF THE TORTOISE - FROM THE PAST
The Tortoise was
formed by the union of two military companies: Porta all’Arco, based
in town, and Sant’Agata, based in the periphery. Its territory
includes a lengthy stretch of the old thirteenth-century city walls.
The Tortoise produced some highly original devices on the float it
built in 1717, in honor of Siena’s lady governor, Violante of
Bavaria: high up,an eagle swooped down to earth from Olympus
carrying a tortoise in its claws; the gods had used the tortoise’s
back as their gameboard in a chess match, a diversion indeed worthy
of the gods, which they had finally decided to share with humankind.
The Tortoise’s sorties were not always so courtly. At time the
Contrada’s mood turned to roguish or farcical displays, as on the
occasion of the 2 July 1711 Palio. Having drawn by lot a bad horse,
the Tortoise members appeared in Piazza del Campo with a cart
fashioned as a hospital bed , in which lay the poor nag, attended by
a physician-farrier and a donkey-doctor. Alessandro Sozzini, the
16th-century author of "Raccolta di burle, facetie, motti e
buffonerie" (A collections of Antics, Capers and Witticism); hit the
nail on the head when he noted that the two famous pranksters of
Siena, Tremoto and Streghino, were members of the Tortoise!