The Palio di Siena (known locally simply as Il Palio) is a horse race held twice each year on July 2 and August 16 in Siena, in which ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen Contrade, or city wards. The Palio held on July 2 is named Palio di Provenzano, in honour of the Madonna of Provenzano, who has a church in Siena. The Palio held on August 16 is named Palio dell’Assunta, in honour of the Assumption of Mary.
The earliest known antecedents of the race are medieval. The town’s central piazza was the site of public games, largely combative: pugna, a sort of many-sided boxing match or brawl; jousting; and in the 16th century, bullfights. Public races organized by the Contrade were popular from the 14th century on; called palii alla lunga, they were run across the whole city. When the Grand Duke of Tuscany outlawed bullfighting in 1590, the Contrade took to organizing races in the Piazza del Campo. The first modern Palio (called palio alla tonda to distinguish it from the earlier palii alla lunga) took place in 1656.
This historical event happens every year on July 2 and August 16 in Siena, Tuscany, Italy and is suitable for people of all ages. For more information, please visit http://palio.comune.siena.it/main.asp?id=0 .
The race itself, in which the jockeys ride bareback, circles the Piazza del Campo, on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid, three times and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is not uncommon for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and indeed it is not unusual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys. The race is preceded by a rich historic pageant.
Tourist Information Center:
A.P.T. Siena – Piazza del Campo 56, Siena
Phone:+39 0577 280551