Each year, on July 2nd, one of the world’s most exciting races is run—the Palio. Siena, Italy comes alive the days prior to the race with days of race practice, contrada dinners, flags, drummers and age-old neighborhood rivalries stirred into a frenzy. Travelers can visit each contrade–identified by their contrada flags and even purchase their own scarves with their favorite contrada symbols (Aquila, Bruco, Chiocciola, Civetta, Drago, Giraffa, Istrice, Leocorno, Lupa, Valdimontone, Nicchio, Oca, Onda, Pantera, Selva, Tartuca, and Torre).
The race field is comprised of ten horses and riders—meaning that each contrada does not run each year. The race lasts around 90 seconds – an exciting 90 seconds!!! The Piazza del Campo is the setting for the race. Sand/dirt is brought into the Piazza with mattresses expertly placed along the perimeter. The crowd surrounds the “track” both along the outside and on the inside. This medieval race trumps all in Siena!
The pageantry, history and local passion make this event as “must see” on every traveler’s bucket list!!