In the previous post we concentrated our attention on Florence’s and the Mugello’s Summer festivals . We want to continue to give a broader outlook on a few other Summer festivals in Tuscany. The first and foremost is the Palio di Siena. The Palio of siena is basically a horse race among the 17 different quarters or contrade of this beautiful Tuscan town . Here are the names of the “contrade” in Italian and English.
Aquila-eagle, Bruco-caterpillar, chiocciola-snail, civetta-little owl, Drago-dragon, Giraffa-giraffe, Istrice-porcupine, Leocorno-unicorn, Lupa-she-wolf, Nicchio-seashell. Oca-goose, Onda-wave, Pantera-panther, Selva-forest, Tartaruca-turtle, Torre-tower, Valdimontone-valleyoftheram . There is one session of the palio di Siena on 2nd July and one on 16th August.
They are also named Palio della Madonna di Provenzano and Palio dell’Assunta. It’s no wonder that both take their names and inspiration from religion. Everything in Italy and in the whole of Europe which has long standing traditions is well rooted in Christianity. Before the race, horse and jockey are blessed with a particular religious ceremony in the chapel of the Contrada. After the race, the members of the winning Contrada go to the Basilica of Provenzano in July to thank the Madonna of Provenzano. In August they go instead to the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.
Piazza del Campo during the days preceding the Palio of Siena is a completely transformed square. The entire track in Piazza del Campo around which the Palio of Siena is run is covered with brown earth. Wooden stands are arranged around the square. here sit the authorities and those who have walked in the ceremonial processions plus spectators with tickets. The centre of the square is fenced in to contain the vast crowd that assembles to watch the race.
Starting from 2017 for security reasons the numbers of viewers in the square has been reduced. If you want to see the palio we strongly recommend getting the tickets as soon as possible. The tickets are physically printed only very close to the race, so they cannot be sent via mail. You will receive a voucher that you will exchange, once in Siena.
As usual the race is preceded by the historical procession that begins in the afternoon. It starts from Piazza Duomo and continues through the alleys of the center. Here you can watch the entire race of the Palio of Madonna dell’assunta of 16th Aug 2017. It’s less than 90 seconds but you get all the thrill of this great event. Basic emotional comment in Italian.
Things to know to understand well the palio of Siena
It’s important to know that this event takes place over several days. It is interesting to follow the rehearsal and the blessing of horses and jockey.
In Piazza del Campo you can watch both the test and the actual Palio di Siena race for free. The stands arranged around the Piazza, the windows and balconies overlooking the Piazza are available for a fee.
There are intense rivalries between the different Contrada that invest Senese people with passion and pride. Beware, the Palio di Siena is not a folklore event for tourists. It is first of all something magical, unrepeatable and unexplainable meant for the Sienese people. As tourists you can enjoy the Palio but with discretion. Here are more detailed information of some of the risks involved
Belonging to a “Contrada” is an essential value for each “Senese” (inhabitant of Siena). So it’s appropriate to follow the Palio of Siena as guests. You must be aware that only the “Contradaioli” can enjoy this competition as the highlight of the entire year.
For tourists this is a chance to appreciate the most genuine spirit of Siena and being carried away in a whirlwind of emotions. Trying to rationally describe the Palio is perhaps impossible. No sociological, historical or anthropological interpretation could explain The Palio. We just have to feel it and be ready to savour every moment of these magical days. for the latest updates we suggest to visit www.comitatoamicidelpalio.it.
Mugello&Tuscany has a special suggestion for your holiday in Tuscany during the days of the Palio of Siena. A great historical hotel a few steps away from Piazza del campo. We’d be happy to support you during your stay to make the most of your holiday.
Here are some interesting links to video materials about the Palio of Siena. They are related to the phases before and after the race.