Siena prepares for Il Palio, Italy’s legendary horse race

The people of Siena prepare for Italy’s most hotly anticipated horse race, known as Il Palio. Each year local ‘contrada’ groups, representing different areas of the city, enter a horse and jockey into a competition, with the hope of waving their flags as champions at the end. The 2013 Palio takes place on 2 July and 16 August

Siena prepares for Il Palio, Italy’s legendary horse race – video via @guardian

One of the most famous popular Italian manifestations: Il PALIO di SIENA

The Palio is a rather complex event, which throughout history has been enriched by so many rules, customs and practices, many of which are known only to the Contrada.



The Palio race, also called “career”, is held every year on July 2 (Palio di Provenzano, in honor of the Madonna di Provenzano) and August 16 (Palio of Assunta ‘, in honor of the’ Assumption of Mary).

On the occasion of the Palio of Siena’s main square, Piazza del Campo, is equipped for racing and ‘ring which will take place on the run is covered with tuff.

For each career involved 10 Contrade of 17, seven are those who have not during the previous year in the Palio, while other three districts are instead chosen by lot.
The days of the Palio are actually four in the fourth race is the competition. The first day of the Palio is held the “traffic”, ie ‘s lottery and’ assignment of horses to different Contrade.

Piazza del Campo

Piazza del Campo

Before the race officer are carried out less than 6 tests, one in the morning and late evening. The fifth test, which takes place the night before the official Palio, is called “dress rehearsal”, while the last one, which takes place the morning is called “provaccia” inadequate efforts that will bring riders with the intention not to force their horses. The jockeys ride the horses always sleeping, that is, without a saddle.
The prize is the Palio of the so-called “Drappellone”, a painting drawn by a different artist each time, the winning Contrada exhibit in their museum.
The day of the Palio, the city is in full swing and the whole day is dedicated to the event.

The race starts from the “Move”, the square area delineated by two ropes (ropes). The “officially started” has the task of calling the Town Quarters, in the order that was raffled off, and check that the assigned positions are observed. The first nine Contrade are positioned between the ropes, as they are called, enter the tenth instead “leapfrogging”, establishing the fact of the ‘start of the race.

The horses have to run three laps of the square, surpassing even dangerous points, such as the sharp bend of San Martino, where clashes often occur and falls.

The first horse reaches the finish line wins, even if “shocked” or riderless, and is delivered to the winning Contrada Drappellone.
After the race the victorious Contrada Drappellone go with in Provenzano’s Church (the Palio of July) or the cathedral (the Palio of August) for the “Te Deum” of thanksgiving.


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