THE PALIO DI SIENA
The Palio di Siena is an historic event that has involved, for centuries, the whole city and precisely the 17 districts from which it is formed. The districts are the areas that form the historic center of Siena.
The districts ("contrade"), each with its own emblem and identifying color, are: Aquila, Bruco, Chiocciola, Civetta, Drago, Giraffa, Istrice, Leocorno, Lupa, Nicchio, Oca, Onda, Pantera, Selva, Tartuca, Torre, Valdimontone.
The Palio di Siena takes place every year on July 2nd and August 16th and consists of a horse race along the perimeter of Piazza del Campo, which is suitably prepared for the competition with a traditional tuff covering.
The two dates on which the Palio takes place are not random. On July 2, the race, called "carriera", is in honor of the Madonna di Provenzano, while that of August 16 is in honor of the Assumption of Mary.
The Palio di Siena is preceded by 6 general rehearsals, and then by the great historical procession that culminates in Piazza del Campo at around 5pm.
The actual race consists of 3 wild laps of the square; to win, it is sufficient for a horse from a district to arrive, even if without a jockey ("shaken"); in fact he may have been thrown off during the race. The jockeys ride strictly "bareback", ie without saddle.
There are various places where the path is difficult and it is not uncommon for a jockey to fall off his horse, either due to speed or due to the actions of another jockey. It is in fact allowed, among the competitors, to carry out disturbing actions on the other riders.
The winner of the Palio is then given the "Drappellone", a canvas that is drawn each year by a different author and which will become part of the collection of the winning district.
At the end of the competition, often as night has already fallen, the winning district members go with their trophy to the Church of Provenza (in July) or to the Cathedral of Siena (in August) to sing a "Te Deum" of thanks.
There is no single ticket office for the Palio di Siena. It is therefore necessary to contact the managers of each stage (so-called "palcaioli") or those who own a house overlooking Piazza del Campo.
In general, it is advisable to contact the Tourist Information Office (A.P.T. of Siena) for more details.