The Palio di Siena is an event known all over the world. Every year thousands of tourists come to Italy – and to Tuscany in particular – to enjoy this spectacular horse race. For the people of Siena, this is a centuries-old tradition rather than a simple event, and it is deeply felt throughout the year.
There are many reasons why you should opt for a holiday in Italy. One of these is the Palio di Siena, a horse race which takes place in Siena (in Tuscany), drawing tourists from all over the world.
The horse race is held twice a year: the 2ndof July, when the Palio della Madonna di Provenzano is run, and the 16thof August, when the Palio dell’Assunta is run.
The Palio di Siena takes place in Piazza del Campo: a beautiful piazza which is well worth a visit.
If you have never been in Italy or in Tuscany, you should plan a holiday in this period. It is the celebration of a whole city, an event not to be missed.
The Palio di Siena has ancient roots. There were reports of horse racing in Siena already in 1200: the oldest document about the Palio dates back to 1238.
The Palio was a leisure event concluding the celebrations of Maria Vergine Assunta, protectress of Siena and of its State. At the time, the nobles took part in the Palio, while the contrade –nowadays leading players– joined a series of games as opponents. The number of the contrade has changed several times over the centuries.
The jockeys ride bareback and without stirrups. It’s not unusual that both horses and jockeys fall. However, the winner is always the horse: in fact, it can reach the finish line even without its jockey (namely “riderless”), gaining victory.
Today Palio involves 17 contrade, related to as many quarters of the city. The rivalry between the contrade is very strong and culminates in the Palio di Siena. This is why people of the different contrade prepare for the Palio 365 days a year. Only 10 of the 17 contrade take part in each edition of the Palio: the 7 contrade which didn’t attend the event the previous year, in addition to 3 contrade chosen randomly.
The day of the Palio di Siena, Piazza del Campo becomes the field of the challenge. The horses have to run for three laps of the piazza, which is covered with sand and tuff for the occasion.
The winning contrada conquers the “Drappellone”, a banner painted by a different artist every year.
If you arrive in Siena in the early afternoon, it is possible to get a seat in the piazza and to attend the Palio di Siena for free.
As alternative, you can contact the tourist authorities of Siena, asking them about the availability of platforms or balconies overlooking the piazza. However, this is a payment solution.
The Palio di Siena is the great celebration of the city and it draws thousands of tourists every year. So be ready to deal with crowds, heat and long waits. The best option to enjoy the most of the Palio di Siena is to count on an accommodation outside the city. Basically, Siena is blocked for 4 days during the Palio.
Our advice is to organize a holiday in Italy of several days, during which you could include also your participation to the Palio di Siena. Before and after the event, you have all the time necessary to relax and to visit the territory. And to discover the many treasures that Tuscany – and neighbouring Umbria – have to offer.
The hills of San Gimignano are the ideal solution for your holiday in Tuscany. You can stay in a beautiful villa with pool, just a few steps away from one of the most beautiful towns of Italy , far from confusion but at the same time in a strategic position to visit the surrounding areas and Siena in particular.