Il Palio di Siena Piazza del Campo

Experience the Palio of Siena - This historic horse race, known as Il Palio di Siena, is one of the most unique and exciting in the world tracing its origins back almost 800 years. The race is held twice a year in the beautiful medieval town square, Piazza del Campo. On race day, the piazza, is filled with thousands of spectators transforming it into not only a racetrack, but a stadium for the event. The city and its people come alive in a festival like atmosphere born out of centuries of rivalry and passion. Il Palio is more than just a horse race, it is a festival that lives in the hearts and souls of the people of Siena.

The first race takes place on the 2 July (Palio di Provenzano, in honour of the Madonna of Provenzano), the second and the more prestigious one is held on the 16 August (Palio dell'Assunzione, in honour of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary).

The race is contested between the suburbs of Siena of which there are seventeen. The suburbs are called 'Contrade'. The people of Siena are born and raised into a Contrada and participate in the life of the suburb and in the organisation of the Palio. Hence the development over hundreds of years of strong rivalry between each suburb. The Sienese people are very passionate and proud of the Contrada they belong to and fiercely support their suburb with all the preparations and festivities to do with the race.

The main square of Siena, the beautiful Piazza del Campo is the place where the race happens. There is a road situated around the square and this is carefully prepared and laid with tuff clay. The surrounding bars and restaurants close so that a grandstand can be erected to accommodate the special guests of the city. The 'Palio' takes place over four days, with the final race taking place on the last day. The first day is for the "Tratta", the drawing of lots, where each Contrada is assigned a particular horse. Each suburb picks their own jockey but not the horse. Six heats take place before the official race both morning and afternoon. The fifth trial is the 'prova generale' (general trial) and the last is done the morning of the race 'provaccia' or bad trial.

Palio Siena  Palio Siena Celebration

The day of the race is filled with pageantry and celebrations with parades by officials, historical costumes and flag throwers. Of the seventeen suburbs, only ten are selected to race. Those that miss out get to race in the next scheduled race. The prize everyone is racing for is 'Il Palio' effectively known as "Il Drappellone" (large drape) or large painted silk banner of the Madonna which each year is designed and created by a different artist. In the afternoon, the race begins and horses and their riders need to go around the square three times. Sometimes, during the race there are collisions and pushing and shoving, demonstrating their great passion to winning the race. Occasionally, a jockey falls off but it doesn't matter, the first horse across the line wins the race. The winning Contrada receives Il Palio which is then proudly displayed in their historical museum. There are huge celebrations with banquets held around the winning Contrada for several days and colourful flags of the suburb are displayed until the next race is run.

Several small group Vita Italian Tours visit Siena and travellers get to experience being in this unique and beautiful Medieval City with its proud history and traditions and will learn more about this wonderful festival. Our fully accredited travel agency Pronto Travel can book all your travel needs anywhere in the world. If you wish to visit Siena and experience the excitement of Il Palio first hand, we can organise a fully inclusive tailor-made package, including accommodation, transfers, grandstand seating for the race and even dinner with a Contrada the night before the race! Il Palio and the beautiful city of Siena are a must experience when travelling to Italy.


Vita Italia Tours - Private itineraries to experience Il Palio di Siena: Contact

For more information on Il Palio di Siena: www.ilpalio.org


Photo credit: Phil Melia - Il Palio di Siena

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