Enjoy living the unique atmosphere that only the Palio Horse Race of Siena offers!
The Palio is a famous horse race held twice a year (on 2nd July and 16th August) in Siena, inside the magical setting of Piazza del Campo.
The Palio represents without a doubt a unique opportunity to live the warmth and passion of the city of Siena. If you have the opportunity of attending, do not pass up on this chance to experience such a passionate and special celebration.
Palio Horse Race 2017 – Don’t Miss this Opportunity ! !
The Tour Includes
- Travel by GT coach or minivan with air conditioning
- Expert Escorts
- Guided visit of Siena with Licensed Guide
- Access to the Square to watch the Race
- Duration: 11 hours
- Start Time: 12:30PM
- When: daily
- Meeting point / Terminal: Central location in Florence (further details will be provided after booking).
Siena Palio Horse Race 2017
Class Code TH0068
What Makes this Tour Unique
- A splendid Guided Tour of Siena
- Palio of Siena Unique atmosphere
- A Delicious Dinner
- Access to the balcony or bleacher to enjoy the best views over the square during the race: from € 450
You will live all the drama and excitement of the four days of the Palio. On the eve of the Palio, the “Prova Generale”, the second-last trial, is followed by a festive dinner. The next day, the most exciting events start in the afternoon when the horses are blessed.
After a magnificent parade in Renaissance costumes, that has no equal, for accuracy, detail of stage costumes, three frenzied laps of the Piazza will decide the winner.
The citizens of the winning Contrada then acclaim the horse and the jockey as heroes and will proudly celebrate all year long.
Our agency is glad to offer packages that capture the true essence of the Palio, a tailor-made experience that will let you take home “the heart of Siena”.
See You in Siena at the Palio Horse Race 2017 ! ! !
Some Historical Notes
The Palio di Siena (known locally simply as Il Palio) is a horse race that is held twice each year, on July 2 and August 16, in Siena, Italy.
A pageant, the Corteo Storico, precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world.
Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colors, 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, a Marian devotion particular to Siena which developed around an icon from the Terzo Camollia. The Palio held on August 16 is named Palio dell’Assunta, in honour of the Assumption of Mary.
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 common for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and indeed, it is usual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys.
A second Palio in August, at first, one race was held each year, on July 2. A second, on August 16, was added from 1701, though initially, the August race was run intermittently rather than every year. The August race (il palio dell’Assunta), which coincided with the Feast of the Assumption, was probably introduced “spontaneously” as part of the feasting and celebration associated with this important festival. August 16 was presumably chosen because the other days of the mid-August canonical festival, the 14th and 15th of the month, were already taken up respectively by the Corteo dei Ceri (Procession of the Ceri) and by the census.
During this special occasion, the main square in Siena, the Piazza del Campo, is prepared for the race as the ring around the square is covered with tuff clay. Ten out of the seventeen contrade take part in each race: seven are those that did not participate in the previous race on that day, while the other three are drawn by lots.
The Palio actually takes place over 4 days, the race taking place on the fourth day. The first day is for the “Tratta“, or the drawing of the lots and assignment of the horses to each of the Contrade. Therefore, each of the Contrade picks their jockey but not the horse, they are drawn and only known at this time!
Before the official race there are 6 trial runs or heats, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The fifth trial, the one run the evening prior to the official Palio, is called the “prova generale” or general trial, while the last which takes place the morning of the main race, is called “provaccia” or bad trial given the little effort the jockeys put into it in order to avoid tiring the horses too much. The jockeys always mount their horses without a saddle.
The Palio prize is called “Drappellone” or large drape, a large painted canvas each year designed and created by a different artist and which the winning contrada displays in their contrada museum.
The Palio is a pretty complex event that has gained additional rules through the centuries, as well as traditions and customs, many which only members of the contrada are aware of. Below is a highlight of some of the main rules and traditions of the Palio, which should be useful in better understanding the event.
The Day of the Palio
On the day of the Palio race the city is in full turmoil and the entire day is dedicated to the event.
Around 8 a.m., in the chapel next to the Palazzo Comunale, the Bishop celebrates the “Messa del fantino” or mass for the horse jockeys. Shortly after the mass the last trial takes place in Piazza del Campo, the one called “provaccia”.
At 10.30 a.m. within the Palazzo Comunale and in the presence of the mayor, the “segnatura dei fantini” takes place. The name of the jockeys are confirmed and cannot be substituted from that point on.
At around 3 p.m. each Contrada performs a blessing ceremony of its horse and afterwards joins in the large parade in historical costume, with over 600 participants, that winds through the city. The parade arrives around 5 p.m. at the Piazza del Campo, and ends by around 6.30-7 p.m. Shortly thereafter the explosion of a firecracker signals the entrance of the horses into the piazza. As the jockeys come out, each one receives a whip made out of ox sinew which they can use to prod their horse or to annoy the other opponents in the race.
The race starts off in the “Mossa“, an area set up on the piazza delimited by two long pieces of thick rope. The “Mossiere” then calls the Contrade in the order in which they were drawn and checks that the assigned positions are respected. The first 9 Contrade take up their assigned positions in the area between the two ropes, while the last one, the tenth, enters this area at a running gallop thus signaling the start of the race. This only happens when this last Contrada decides to make the attempt to start off the race.
If the start is not considered valid (this is the case if the jockeys are not in their assigned spots), a shot goes out to signal the jockeys to get back into place. This starting phase within the “Mossa” is more complicated than it seems, as the space is small and the horses are right next to each other. Rivalries run deep within the Contrade and competition is high and the worst result is to see the “enemy” Contrada win the race. The wait for the start of the race can thus be extremely long and last into twilight.
If all goes well the start of the race can start at any time. The horses must run three laps around the Campo, overcoming dangerous points such as the very narrow curve of San Martino where collisions between the wall and between horses have led to many falls in the past (the main reason why many animal activists oppose the Palio).
The first horse that crosses the finish line, even if he arrives without his jockey, wins the race.
The winning Contrada receives the Drappellone, as the victorious Contrada members head towards the Church of Provenza (after the July race) or towards the Duomo (after the August race) for the “Te Deum” or prayer of thanks.