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Palio di Siena 2024 in Tuscany

A picturesque horse race in the heart of historical Siena

Dates: July 2 | August 16

Palio di Siena
Palio di Siena

Siena residents are most passionate about horse racing. They hold competitions twice a year: on July 2nd to honor the Madonna of Provenzano and on August 16th to honor the Virgin Mary's Assumption. Both events take place at the Piazza del Campo and attract thousands of visitors.

The Contrade Tradition in Siena

The city is divided into several "contrade" or areas, each with its colors and symbols. During the race, representatives of different areas challenge each other and compete fiercely for the first prize. According to some sources, this tradition appeared in Siena as early as the 6th century. The 17 existing contrade are Eagle, Snail, Wave, Panther, Forest, Tortoise, Owl, Unicorn, Shell, Tower, Ram, Caterpillar, Dragon, Giraffe, Porcupine, She-Wolf, and the Goose. Each group has its emblem and colors. The flags and emblems are displayed along the streets long before the beginning of the race.

Race Highlights

On the day of the race, each contrada blesses its horse at about 3 pm, and then all the horses gather for the historical procession, and march through the city center. At 5 pm, the parade arrives at the Piazza del Campo, where the race commences.

The race course that circles the Piazza del Campo is covered with a thick layer of dirt. The jockeys who ride bareback run for three laps. The whole race usually lasts for about 90 seconds. Sometimes jockeys get thrown off the horses during the turns which often leads to serious injuries.

Victory flag-waving

The victory flag-waving marks the culmination of the Palio di Siena's historical procession, a vibrant portrayal of the city's rich heritage. Led by the Contrade and their adorned performers, known as Comparse, the procession showcases elegance, dedication, and coordination. With more than 600 participants, it enters Piazza del Campo to the sound of Sunto, the bell of Torre del Mangia tower.

Entrance

Admission to witness the Palio from inside the square is free, and due to the square's shell shape, it offers a favorable view even for those of shorter stature. While Sienese locals typically gather in the square, opting to view the race from stages, terraces, or windows may require payment.

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Authors: Mariia Myshok