The Palio di Siena

The Palio in Siena takes place every year in the Piazza del Campo on July 2 and August 16, as it has done since 1656.

It is a unique and popular festival where ten of the city’s seventeen contrade*, chosen by draw, compete to win a banner of painted silk called the ‘palio’. The night before the race each district holds an al fresco dinner where local dignitaries and their jockey are present.

Such is the fervour and rivalry between the contrade that the horse is taken to its district’s church for a blessing before the race.

The event is preceded by a spectacular pageant in medieval costumes.

The race itself runs for three laps of a dangerous, steeply canted track, the perimeter of which is covered with several inches of dirt and turf, the corners being protected with padded crash barriers. The jockeys ride bareback.

The seventeen contrade and their flags are:

Giallo_listato_di_Nero_e_Turchino.PNG  Aquila (Eagle)
Giallo_e_Verde_listati_di_Azzurro_con_quadrato_Rosso.PNG  Bruco (Caterpillar)
Giallo_e_Rosso_a_quadri_con_liste_turchine.PNG  Chiocciola (Snail)
Nero_e_Rosso_incrociati_listati_di_Bianco.PNG  Civetta (Little Owl)
Rosa_Antico_e_Verde_con_cornice_gialla.PNG  Drago (Dragon)
Bianco_listato_di_Rosso.PNG  Giraffa (Giraffe)

Bianco_listato_di_Nero_Turchino_e_Rosso.PNG  Istrice (Crested Porcupine)
Bianco_e_Arancio_listati_di_Turchino.PNG  Leocorno (Unicorn)
Bianco_e_Nero_listati_di_Arancione.png  Lupa (She-Wolf)
Blu_listato_di_Rosso_e_Bianco.PNG  Nicchio (Seashell)
Verde_listato_di_Bianco_e_Rosso_con_Cerchio_Giallo_in_mezzo.PNG  Oca (Goose)
Bianco_e_Celeste_a_Quadri.PNG  Onda (Wave)

Blu_e_Rosso_incrociati_listati_di_Bianco.PNG  Pantera (Panther)
Verde_e_Arancione_listati_di_Bianco.PNG  Selva (Forest)
Giallo_e_Azzurro_Linee_Diagonali.PNG  Tartuca (Tortoise)
Rosso_listato_di_Bianco_e_Azzurro.PNG  Torre (Tower)
Giallo_e_Rosso_listato_di_Bianco_Linee_Orizzontali.png  Montone (Ram)

*City districts

The excitement in the city before and after the race can only truly be experienced by being present.

We can organise for you:

  • Accommodation in the city centre or in a beautiful Country Estate on the outskirts
  • A private balcony affording the very best view of the race
  • Al fresco dinner in one of the participating contrade
  • Services of a local guide/art historian to bring the whole event alive