Il Rettore (The Rector) of La Nobil Contrada del Bruco
by Tea Francesca Price
In the garden of a beautiful home just a short drive outside of the walls of Siena, a young, pale cat—closely resembling a lynx, with pointy ears and long fur—meanders through the grove of olive trees towards his owner. “Ciao!” Fabio Pacciani calls over the whirring of cicadas. “You've met YoYo!"
Reaching to pet the giant cat with a gloved hand, he adds, "He is new since last you were here."
Dressed in a protective mask and white bee-repellent kit monogrammed with a smiling, blue bumblebee, Pacciani is in the middle of lulling a buzzing hive of honeybees to sleep. Reaching into a green plastic container, he hospitably offers a taste of the unfiltered golden elixir pouring from the dripping, waxy comb. Surrounded by a menagerie of pets and the rolling Chianti countryside, Pacciani seems so content in his work, that momentarily it is easy to forget his many other titles. A husband, a father, an oral surgeon, a contradaiolo and il Rettore [the rector] of La Nobil Contrada del Bruco.
Fabio Pacciani explaining how honey is collected to Diana Marie Iorio. Photo Credit: Tea Francesca Price
Fabio Pacciani serving dinner in the Bruco contrada's terraced gardens on a Friday evening. Photo Credit: Tea Francesca Price
Seated on a sofa, evidence of the Bruco contrada can be seen all around the living room. From artwork to the detectable hints of green, yellow, and blue around the room, Pacciani is one who actively lives, what can be referred to as, “the contrada lifestyle."
“When the contrada is together,” Pacciani explains, “that is one of my favorite things. To be a part of this membership, to be a part of this community…that respect for each other because of belonging to the same Contrada…this creates a great strength because it gives power and sentiment which the district manifests.”
Conceding that, over time, the contrade of Siena have changed—starting as military groups and morphing into their function today—Pacciani says that, ultimately, that the city maintains its characteristic element because of the presence and strength of the contrade.
“In Siena, it is easier because the contrade identify themselves, but all recognize the centrality of the city. This is positive, because certainly it creates a social cohesion that always respects tradition,” Pacciani says. “but there are limitations, that is to say it is a world a little closed in itself to contacts on the outside.”
Siena and its contrade are not a utopia. While "there are no differences in respect related to an education level or economic aspect," Pacciani says there, of course, are real emotions, real conflicts and real issues in a contrada, but it is to be expected within a family. Fortunately, a contrada has a capacity to adapt to the changing society around it, Pacciani notes, saying that in the world of growing social media and technology, that it is not possible to avoid such progress but it is important to use everything appropriately and maintain the dialogue of a contrada within the contrada.
“If used appropriately, then it is possible to maintain what is the importance of verbal communication,” Pacciani says. “The strength of the contrada comes from attending the contrada regularly, from sharing traditions and values of the contrada with the younger generation through the individual story of a person.
“From being in front of a person, to seeing the person, hugging them, simply being present and participating…this is very important for the life of the contrada.”
Francesco Pacciani, son of Fabio, bringing YoYo (the cat) back to the house by way of playing fetch. Photo Credit: Tea Francesca Price
A soft-spoken man, Pacciani mentions over lunch how much the Bruco contrada means to him, explaining how the word ‘contrada’ signifies an important part of himself having been born within the district.
“I identify with the people it represents, with its history, with its traditions,” Pacciani says, “And I strive to make sure these traditions are present even as time passes.”
Pacciani, who is currently serving his fifth time as il Rettore, “the rector,” said he wanted to serve in this way in order to contribute not only to the Bruco contrada but also to the entire city. The highest-ranking person on the Bruco contrada’ Seggio or Sedia, a democratically elected council, Pacciani handles the administrative aspects of the Contrada. As a rule, elections occur ever two years….for Pacciani, this will be his 10th year.
“Yes, the role of the rector consists of being il capo [a boss] but one is also the morale of the district,” Pacciani says. “They are one who has a great deal of responsibility to the contrada, in the end, from the point of view of the administration and from the point of view of also maintaining traditions.”
Fabio Pacciani watching the contrade enter the Piazza Del Campo before the trial runs. Photo Credit: Tea Francesca Price
A special thank you to Francesco Pacciani for acting as translator & for agreeing to be interviewed at a separate time.
Click the photo to hear a conversation with Francesco about the contrada lifestyle.