Palio of Siena
The Palio di Siena is a huge horse racing competition between the 17 districts of Siena. 8 of the districts that are selected by chance participate in an exciting horse race on the Piazza del Campo that lasts for only 90 seconds of pure adrenaline and excitement.
This festival has its origins in the Siena of Roman times and is repeated twice yearly on July 2nd and August 16th. Just prior and on these days the city of Siena and its “Sienesi” (the inhabitants of Siena) are bustling with excitement as they prepare for the famous race and the huge celebration.
Every person born in the city is by tradition assigned to one of the “Contrade” (the discticts). Most of the time, if the father is known to be of a certain neighborhood, his child will be given the same honor. Therefore, from the day of its christening, the child becomes an integral part of these small communities that tend to stick together and support eachother throughout life. Sieneses consider their contrada an extension of their family. They hold parties, take part in activities and form strong friendships together.
The neighborhoods compete with each other, and each one usually has at least onr or two rival ones. Adjacent contrade tend to have the most heated rivalries which often lead to small confrontations between these neighborhoods prior to the days of the Palio. While the focus is usually on the rivalries, there are often also collaborations between allies to ensure a victory in the 90 second race.
The Palio itself is more than a simple race, it is a party that gives almost every living Sienese a reason to visit the city, to enjoy the festivities at the Piazza del Campo and to stand tall and support his hometown contrada.
Attendance is free, however the view from the Piazza can be very bad and very uncomfortable in the stifling heat. Locals sell space on steps or adjacent platforms at a price of 400 to 1000 Euros, which can often be worth every cent as the turbulence of the stunning race rushes by the immense crowd.
We hope that this article will be helpful to you on your future travels and, should you decide on going to Siena, you will experience days that will provide you with some of the best memories of the summer.