The Palio of Siena is the life of the people of Siena in its different aspects and feelings, and not a manifestation exhumed and organized for tourism.
The origins of the Palio are remote but the Palio similar to the one we know now, with the contrade, the horses and the regulations issued by the municipal authorities, is born in the middle of the seventeenth century.
Today the Palio is run in Piazza del Campo on July 2 and August 16 of every year and is attended by the seventeen Contrade in which the historical center is divided, according to the borders established in 1729 by the Bando di Violante di Baviera, Governor of the City.
To fully understand it, you have to know a few rules:
- Ten of 17 Contrade run the Palio of July 2: the seven who have not raced in the Palio of July of the previous year, to which three are added, drawn from the ten who ran. The same holds for the Palio of August 16.
- The 10 contrade participate in the Palio race with a horse that is assigned to them by drawing from a list of horses selected from those physically suitable.
- The assignment of the horses takes place in the morning of June 29 and August 13, and before each Palio 6 test races take place (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) that are needed for the jockey chosen by each Contrada to find the necessary harmony with the horse. The horse is mounted “a pelo” (bareback).
- You can watch the test races and the Palio by accessing for a fee to the tribunes (palchi) arranged around the Piazza or to the windows and balconies that overlook it, or for free from the inside of the Piazza.
- The Palio race is preceded by a procession (Passeggiata Storica) in which more than 600 participants take part, representing the 17 Contrade and institutions of the ancient Republic of Siena. The procession starts from Piazza del Duomo in the first hours of the afternoon, and winds through some streets of the town center before parading in Piazza del Campo.
- The victory of the Palio is awarded to the Contrada whose horse, having made three laps of the track, reaches, even "scosso" (i.e. without jockey), first the bandierino (little flag) of the finish line placed in front of the Palco dei Giudici (stage of the judges).
See the video: Siena. Palio into the heart
For more information see the website of Comitato Amici del Palio