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The Palio of Siena

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The Palio is held every year in the splendid town of Siena. It’s an ancient horse race that dates back to 1200 in which every horse represents a contrade (districts) of the city. The horses run in Piazza del Campo for a total of three laps and the first to cross the finish line, with or without its jockey, wins the Palio. A hand-painted silk drape along with weeks of celebrations, dinners and fame are in store for the winner.


The race takes place twice a year, on July 2nd, in honor of the Madonna of Provenzano, and on August 16th, in honor of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Each race includes 10 districts of 17 total districts. The race is held in July at 7.30 pm and in August at 7.00 pm, and is preceded by a medieval procession (corteo storico).

It is highly recommended to go to the square by 4.00 pm, because the event is crowded and access to the square is limited. You can attend the event for free from the square, or you can buy tickets for the stands in the tribune, balconies or windows. Since there is no centralized ticket office, tickets can be purchased directly from the managers of the individual boxes (palcaioli) or from the owners of the apartments that overlook the Piazza. For security reasons, children under the age of 12 are not allowed to enter the square.

The Palio is an internationally renowned event bringing in thousands of tourists. It is also a very important event for the people of Siena because of the preparation that goes into organizing the event.

Useful Info for the August 16th Palio

7.45 am – the “mass of the Fantino” in the Chapel adjacent to the Town Hall

9.00 am – “Provaccia” – After this trial run, Captains and jockeys gather together for registration and the presentation of the vest he will wear in the race

2.30 pm – Blessing of the horse and the jockey

3.50 pm – Parade departs from the Government Palace courtyard in Piazza del Duomo to reach Piazza del Campo

4.50 pm – The Historical Procession enters the Piazza, according to the order of the first trial run

5.45 pm – Access to the Piazza from Via Dupré is closed

7.00 pm – The banner is hoisted on the Palco dei Giudici and all the contradas wave their flags in one final show known as “della Vittoria”

A firecracker explodes and they are off! The palio has begun!

Other articles about the Siena area: The Reopening of Siena’s Duomo Floors, Colle Val d’Elsa and Monteriggioni

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