Last night, for the first time, I read about the Palio di Siena, a traditional horse-race in which various Sienese neighbourhoods, or contrade compete against each other. The race itself sounds intense, but the seventeen contrade themselves are even more fascinating, each with a very long local history, and a long memory to hold it. Every district has its own banner depicting the symbol that gives it its name. The banner that most captured my imagination was, naturally, that of Bruco, a contrada named for the caterpillar that was the basis of the local silk industry.
I never would have heard of the Palio, but for my mother mentioning a lovely eyefull of Italian ceramics, a company called Biordi. They have an entire series of contrade crests (on plates, plates priced so that you wouldn't want to drop them, to say the least) here.