Palio the great horse race

The most ancient horse race ever

As you probably know Siena is known throughout the world thanks to the “Palio“. During the historical sporting event, the various Sienese “contrade” (the neighbourhoods of this UNESCO World Heritage city). Challenge each other in a passionate horse race in the heart of the city, on the famous Piazza del Campo.

There are 17 “contrade” that join this competition, and every “contrada” has its emblem and colours. The highly complex event – first recorded to have taken place in the Middle Ages.  A mix of ancient and new rules, tradition and customs. 

Since 1200 there is evidence of a horse race in Siena, and documents before the twelfth century recall a “Palio di San Bonifazio”. That is the titular saint of the ancient cathedral, which before the foundation of the current one stood in Castelvecchio.

The beautiful event

When Siena became one of the richest and most cultured cities in Europe in the Middle Ages. The Palio became the playful event and the final moment of the annual feasts. In honour of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, patron saint of Siena and its State. The climax of the festivities was the ceremony of the offering of candles and censuses in the Cathedral. A rite considered at the time both religious and political.

An act of devotion to the Madonna of the Sienese and subjection to the regents of the Municipality of Siena. Also, The Palio was run only by nobles and notables on their horses. The day of the Palio is fascinating. It starts with a blessing ceremony for the horses of each “contrada,”. And continues with a parade in colourful historical costumes that passes through the city and ends in Piazza del Campo.

The race itself lasts no more than 90 seconds – but those 90 seconds mesmerize the entire city!.

Siena is one of the main and most beautiful cities in Tuscany. If you are lucky enough to be there during the Palio make sure to not miss this amazing and historic event.

But we have to say that Siena is much more than this, it’s a beautiful city with a lot of history and art to discover.