Palio


Palio is many things. First of all, it is a horse race which takes place twice a year (July 2 and August 16) in the main square of Siena, Piazza del Campo. However, this doesn't make of it a mere sport or competition: Palio is the prize itself too, given to the winner district (contrada). The prize is a painting on a tissue drawn exclusively for the Palio by more or less well-known artists, for each occasion. The horse race itself only lasts 80 seconds, but Palio, it is an everlasting thing for the inhabitants of the city.



About the Palio


Palio is many things. First of all, it is a horse race which takes place twice a year (July 2 and August 16) in the main square of Siena, Piazza del Campo. However, this doesn't make of it a mere sport or competition: Palio is the prize itself too, given to the winner district (contrada). The prize is a painting on a tissue drawn exclusively for the Palio by more or less well-known artists, for each occasion. The race itself only lasts 80 seconds, but it's an everlasting thing for the inhabitants of the city.

Siena is organized into 17 different districts, or Contradas. These communities are not open to everyone: traditionally, the membership is given by birthright, and the initiation (Battesimo Contradaiolo) is one of the most important ceremonies in the community life, as it officially celebrates the joining of a Contrada. Anyone who gets the opportunity to

witness the Palio will soon realize that this is not an event organized for tourists. Obviously, everyone is welcome here, but consider that the Palio is an authentic and sincere tradition which lives in the hearts of the citizens and represents the most important moment of a year, if not of the entire life, spent as part of the community.

Why does Palio
take place?



Originally, Contradas were military units composed by workers' guilds that would provide soldiers to the city in case of need. In peacetimes, inhabitants would amuse and train themselves by taking part to particularly violent sports, such as pugnae, which resulted in disrupting the Republic's balance and in outspreading hate hard to repress. As years went by, all of this evolved in Palio which is still nowadays metaphor of a conflict regulated by laws.

Why twice
a year?



Since the very beginning, the Palio have always been organized for August 16. As a matter of fact, it is known as Palio dell'Assunta, as it is celebrated in honour of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. In the middle of XVI century, the miracle of Madonna di Provenzano took place in Siena: according to the legend, a spanish soldier, member of Charles V's occupying army, tried to shoot a representation of Mary placed in Provenzano's district by Saint Catherine herself. Legend has it that the soldier's weapon exploded killing him, whereas the statue remained intact. The inhabitants of Siena decided to celebrate the miracle by organizing a horse race July 2, in honour of Mary from Provenzano.



Palio Days


Anyone who visits Siena during the days before Palio's horse race (from June 29 to July 2 or from August 13 to August 16) will be overwhelmed by a unique sets of colours, sounds, historical parades where flags, horses and traditional characters are the main actors, surrounded by crowds of supporters of the different districts (contradas).

From a newcomer's perspective, all of this would probably resemble a chaotic parallel world. But in fact, this is not the case. Everything you witness during the days before the horse race has its reason from the official assignment of the horses to the jockeys, which happens on June 29 and August 13, until the day of the race itself. Rules and practices remained the same throughout the centuries and are of particular importance for the local people. If you want to fully appreciate Siena's most important celebration, all you have to do is contact us.

Our local tourist guides are at your disposal and will be able to introduce you to all the aspects of Siena's history and traditions, including the specific rituals and rules of the Palio. You will have the chance of witnessing the horse assignment to the contradas from one of the balconies in front of our office in Piazza del Campo, the blessing of the horses before the race, or the initiation ritual of new members of contradas. We know exactly when all of this takes place and we will guide you to our unique tradition, if you want.



Palio Tickets




Aiming to promote sustainable and responsible tourism, we offer the opportunity of living an immersive experience of a secular tradition which has been cherished by Siena's citizens - the Palio. The Basic offer includes a guided tour on the day of the Palio and the chance to witness the horse race from a ringside seat above the curve of San Martino, quite a spectacular part of the square.

Languages available: Any

Aiming to promote sustainable and responsible tourism, we offer the opportunity of living an immersive experience of a secular tradition which has been cherished by Siena's citizens – the Palio. First Choice offer gives you the chance of sitting on the benches nearby Fonte Gaia, or even witnessing the race by one of the balconies above, after the guided tour with our expert local guides.

Languages available: Any

Aiming to promote sustainable and responsible tourism, we offer the opportunity of living an immersive experience of a secular tradition which has been cherished by Siena's citizens – the Palio. By choosing the Exclusive offer you can witness the race sitting on the benches right in front of "mossa", the starting point, which is one of the most intense and unique moments of the whole race.

Languages available: Any

Aiming to promote sustainable and responsible tourism, we offer the opportunity of living an immersive experience of a secular tradition which has been cherished by Siena's citizens – the Palio. This offer gives you the access to the window of a deluxe suite for a maximum of 4 people, after a Special Palio Tour with our expert local guides.

Languages available: Any