The Palio of Siena horse race that takes place on July 2nd and August 16th in the Piazza del Campo should be seen at least once in a lifetime: The race itself lasts a very short time, but it is preceded by a beautiful parade where each “contrada” (neighborhood) participated garbed in its historical costumes.
During the 4 days preceding the Palio, Siena also becomes the venue for parties and the occasion for several celebrations.
Our Reception can book tickets for the Palio of Siena, either July 2nd or August 16th. And after the hectic crowd in Siena, you will return to the relaxing quiet atmosphere of Villa le Barone, just 40 minutes away.
The Palio of Siena is an event that has always been part of the life of Siena’s inhabitants. Each year the Sienese go crazy for the Palio, which takes place since 1644 in the central Piazza del Campo.
The first races were with “buffalo” type cattle, later on donkeys and finally real horse races were held. Today, the race takes place between 10 districts (“contrada”) of the seventeen in the city. Violante, Princess of Bavaria, governor of the city at that time, established in 1729 seventeen districts or “contrade” (Contrada is the singular). Even today, Siena has 17 contrade, almost all named after an animal: Aquila (Eagle) Bruco (Caterpillar), Chiocciola (Snail), Civetta (Owl), Drago (Dragon), Giraffa (Giraffe), Istrice (Porcupine), Leocorno (Unicorn), Lupa (She-Wolf), Nicchio (Shell), Oca (Goose), Onda (Wave), Pantera (Panther), Selva (Forest), Tartuca (Tortoise), Torre (Tower), Valdimontone (Aries). Six other contrade do not exist anymore, but existed before 1675 Quercia (oak), Vipera (Viper), Orso (Bear), Leone (Lion), Gallo (Rooster) and Spadaforte (Sword) and were disqualified because of their violence. Although they are now extinct they always march alongside others in the traditional procession of flag bearers, drummers and trumpeters, which precedes the race. Each contrada is headed by a Prior and each contrada has its own church, its symbol, its flag, its songs, its codes, its colors.
Palio rules are very complex and only a true Sienese can explain you all the subtleties! The race itself takes a very short time for the horse / rider team, representing one of the seventeen districts of the city, to run the three laps around the square. But the race is preceded by a spectacular grand parade. With colorful costumes and very lively, all contradas are present with drums, notables, horsemen, … flag bearers throw their flags with their staff high in the air and then catch them adroitly back. The horses and riders wear the colors and weapons of their district. During the race, riders ride bareback. They have the right to use their whip to hit other horses and their riders. The winner is the first horse (not necessarily the rider since he can fall!) that finishes the race, as long as its head ornaments is still intact. The winner gets the Palio flag, painted specially for the event. That’s when the big party in the winning “contrada” begins!
Staying at the historic Hotel Villa le Barone, near Siena, you will enjoy this beautiful city and if you like, go attend the Palio, an event worth seeing at least once in one’s lifetime. We can reserve a place for you!
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