Experiencing the Thrill of Palio di Siena

History of Palio di Siena:

Nested in the heart of Tuscany, amidst the charm of Siena, lies an event like no other: the Palio di Siena. This unique horse race dates back to the 17th century, captivating both locals and visitors with its rich history, pageantry, and intense competition. In 1590 the Grand Duke of Tuscany outlawed bullfighting which was when the races started to form. Initially, the race was run using buffalo, then donkeys, and finally with horses as it is today. The first modern-day Palio took place in 1633 and has been happening ever since.

Every year on July 2nd and August 16th the city erupts in excitement as 10 of its 17 contrade, or districts, compete in a bare-back horse race in the Piazza del Campo.

Each district holds a strong sense of identity, pride, and passion, all coming together to fight for glory. This is no ordinary horse race, but rather the culmination of an ongoing historical rivalry, making it one of the most anticipated events in Tuscany.

What you will experience

On the day of the race, you can walk the streets passing by the exhilarated people dressed in their contrade emblems and colors. If you arrive a little early, witness the famous celebration, Corteo Storico. Here you can hear the drums and the March of the Palio echo throughout the city while each district parades, holding its flag in pride. A squad of carabinieri rides in on horseback, wielding swords and demonstrating a mounted charge around the track to kickstart the events.

The excitement from the cheers of the neighborhood denizens is palpable as they rally behind their jockey lining up behind the rope line, waiting for the final horse, the rincorsa, to enter. The anticipation in the crowd builds waiting for the rincorsa, for the drop of the ropes indicating they can go…

…The ropes drop, and the 90-second, three-lap race has begun. Dust is flying everywhere, cheers erupting, and adrenaline is pumping while the 10 horses and men fight to win for their contrade.

Visiting Siena

If you are lucky enough to witness the Palio di Siena, it is an experience that leaves a lasting impression from full immersion into a world of tradition and rivalry. If you are headed to Siena and want to learn more about the history and culture of this Tuscan town, explore both Siena and San Gimignano on an exclusive day trip to walk these famous medieval streets.

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