The Palio di Siena
Everything you should know

The Palio di Siena is the most famous historical horse race in Italy, but it is not an event organized for tourism purposes: it is the life of the Sienese people over time and in its various aspects and feelings. Let's discover all its characteristics together!

The Days of the Palio
The Palio is not an event limited to the horse race of 2 July and 16 August: with the Days of the Palio we mean the 4-day period that begins with the assignment of the horses and culminates with the race (29/6 - 2 / 7 and 13/8 - 16/8), in which the majority of Palio events are concentrated, but for the Sienese it can be said that the Palio lasts all year round. In fact, the celebrations begin immediately after the end of the race with the delivery of the Palio, but from then on every opportunity will be good to remind the city of the victory won on the field, until autumn, when, between the month of September and the first Days of October, in the festively decorated victorious "Contrada" (district), the "victory dinner" will take place, attended by thousands of contradaioli and, in the place of honor, the victorious horse, the real winner of the race.

What happens on the first day of the Palio (29/6 and 13/8)
In the morning the so-called "Tratta" takes place: about thirty horses are presented, among which the Captains of the Contrade, choose 10 following trial runs that verify their adaptability to the path of the Piazza del Campo.
These 10 horses will then be randomly assigned to the 10 Contrade that will participate in the Palio. In the late afternoon the first test is run, which will be followed by another 4 on the following days, up to the fifth, called "General Test", scheduled for the day before the Palio (1/7 and 15/8). You can attend the various tests by appearing up to a quarter of an hour before for the morning tests (8.45 am) and up to half an hour before for the evening tests (7.15 pm for the evening tests in July and 18, 45 for those of August).

What happens on the day of the race
In the morning the sixth and final test is run, called "Provaccia", preceded by the so-called "Mass of Fantino (horse rider), celebrated in Piazza del Campo. In the early afternoon, in the church of each participating Contrada, the blessing of the Horse takes place which can be assisted by trying to ask for permission to enter (which may or may not be granted, depending on the situation). If you are able to enter, it should be borne in mind that this is a particularly delicate and heartfelt moment: ABSOLUTE SILENCE is required and THE USE OF FLASHES IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN. At the end of the blessing of the Horse and the jockey one should NOT applaud.
At the end of the blessing, from the Prefecture (near the Duomo) the Historical Parade departs for the square. Then in Piazza del Campo, there is an exhibition of the Carabinieri on horseback, then the historical procession (about 2 hours) and finally the "Carriera" (Palio race).

The race
At the outbreak of the firecracker, the horses enter the track. They approach the "Mossa", the starting point, where two ropes have been stretched between which horses will be called to line up. Absolute silence reigns in the square. The tenth and final Contrada will enter "run-up" when horse rider with his horse thinks it's more appropriate, thus deciding the moment of departure. If the departure is not valid, a burst of firecracker will stop the horses. The horses will have to make three laps of the track for about 1000 meters and the glory of the victory will be reserved only to the first arrival. The winner is the horse, in fact it can also arrive "shaken", that is without the horse rider.


What happens immediately after the Palio race
The people of the winning Contrada bring the Palio, called "Drappellone" (like a big flag), to the church of S. Maria in Provenzano (in July) or to the Cathedral (in August) for thanksgiving to the Madonna; then he takes him to his own Contrada and then repeatedly around the city, accompanied by songs, drums and flags.

When to enter the square
On the day of the Palio the square closes an hour and a quarter before the horses enter the track (19.30 in July and 19 in August). It is recommended to enter the square by 16.15 for the July Palio and by 15.45 for the August Palio but if the square is filled before that time it will be closed. For the huge crowd that is created, once you enter the square, it is quite problematic to get out before the race, so it is good to carefully evaluate the opportunity to enter or not and do it only if you are determined to attend the Palio all the way, and if you are prepared to endure the sun and the heat for over three hours.

What time is the Palio race scheduled?
At 19.30 in July, at 19 in August. The actual departure can also take place much later if the "Mossa" operations continue for a long time.

And if it rains on the day of the Palio?
If it rains on the day of the Palio the race will not take place, above all to safeguard the safety of the horses and jockeys. The green flag will appear on the Palazzo Pubblico and the race will be postponed to the next day.

How much do you pay to attend the Palio?
Attending the Palio from inside the square costs nothing. The shape of the square, shell, favors a discrete view even to people not too tall. The Sienese generally go to the Piazza and also for this reason they experience the greatest emotions. If instead you opt to see the race from the stages, from the terraces or from the windows, then you pay.

And the children?
In the square, children under 12 years of age are not allowed on the day of the Palio.

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