THE PALIO OF SIENA

A horse race which lasts less than 2 minutes is the subject of debate and competition all year round and can cause men and women to laugh or cry; we are talking about the Palio, the greatest traditional festival in Siena. Siena is divided into seventeen contrade, or areas of the city. The Sienese people belong first to a contrada and then to the city. Each contrada competes against one another in the Palio, and rivalry and competition are an integral part of the preceding months before the event. Ten contrade are selected for each race, each contrada is assigned a horse, and the horses compete in “la corsa” of Piazza del Campo while thousands of people come as spectators and participants, transforming the main square into a teeming sea of people. There are two Palio races each summer; one on the 2nd of July, and the second on the 16th August.

For each race ten contrade are selected and a horse, that will run against the others, is assigned to each one. Obligatorily, the following year the remaining 7 contrade will run, and other three, among the one who run the previous year, are sorted so that 10 contrade can take part to the race. The draws occur about one month before the Palio. There are two curiosities about the horses: the first one is that the horse – and not the jockeyrepresents the contrada thanks to the “spennacchiera” (the cockade on the forehead that shows the colours of the contrada); the second one concerns the fact that the horse wins the Palio even if he is “scosso” (without the jockey that may fall during the race).