Siena’s Palio Horse Race: Experience the Medieval Side of Tuscany
One of the most spectacular and best known festival representative of medieval tradition in Italy is Siena’s Palio horse race. Considered as one of the most important events in Siena and in Italy as a whole, viagra the event drews fun from across the world to witness a celebration of art, culture, history and folklore in the heart of Tuscany.
The event dates back to the Middle Ages and is one of the few surviving medieval spectacles of its type in Italy, enduring thanks to the great sense of traditionalism among Sienese people.
This world-renowned spectacle is held in the awesome piazza of Siena Piazza del Campo, twice a year on July 2nd and August 16th to honor the Virgin Mary.
Piazza del Campo is always very busy with people moving from one part to another; the tables at the bars – Bar Caffetteria al Mangia, Bar Manganelli, Bar Il Palio, Bar Fonte Gaux – are full. During the regular days of the year the scene there is colorful, orderly, civilized.
But on festival days, Piazza del Campo is turned into a racetrack which culminate in 90 seconds of racing; it becomes a place bursting with 30,000 people crammed into every available space, balcony or rooftop to watch the running of Il Palio, as it has been run almost every year for the last 700 years.
Ready to experience the drama and chaos of Il Palio?
Follow the horses into Piazza del Campo for the main Palio race, where a crowd of prideful contradaioli; (citizens of each contrada) and tourists await.
The highlights of Il Palio
There are many remarkable moments during the days of the Palio; in addition to the race itself, the ones that are especially salient come immediately before the race.
Ten of Siena’s 17 town districts, or contrade, compete for the coveted palio, a silk banner. Each has its own traditions, symbol and colors, as well as its own church and Palio museum. Walking down the streets, you’ll notice the various flags representing these quarters, each with a name and symbol relating to an animal.
A pageant, the Corteo Storico, precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world. It would be also interesting to attend the “Blessing of the Horse” ceremony, a sacred rite that takes place inside various churches of the 17 contrade, or city districts. During this parade, the costumed horses and riders – all with their eye on the victorious Palio banner – are blessed before the start of the race with the priest’s famous words: “Go, and come back the winner!”. This is The Palio di Siena is more than a simple horse race. It is the culmination of ongoing rivalry and competition between the contrade.
You can watch the spectacle right from the center of the piazza.;The west side provides more shade, while the east side provides the clearest view of the racetrack.
Experience the festive, electric atmosphere among the crowd of excited fans as the jockeys make a short dash around the plaza toward the finish line.
A thunderous applause from the audience congratulates the winner, and the victory brings good luck and pride to the winning contrada, which will be celebrated all year long.
It’s advisable to book well in advance for a room, and to join the crowds in the centre of Piazza del Campo at least four hours before the start for a good view. Surrounding streets are closed off well before the race begins, except for Via Giovanni Dupré, which stays open right up until the flag drops.
For those who would like to experience the medieval side of Siena we suggest to participate at Siena’s Palio live the festive atmosphere during these striking event.