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Palio di Siena di Luglio


On the 2nd of July the first Palio of the year takes place, dedicated to the Madonna of Provenzano.

It’s free to attend the Palio in Piazza del Campo (standing room only), but you must get in line well ahead of time to enter the piazza (remember to take a water bottle!). Seating is also available (on the bleachers, known as palchi), at least in theory: tickets can be impossible to find. Even if you don’t want to go into the piazza to watch the Palio live, we recommend the experience of going to Siena and watching it on TV over a cold drink in a local café, then participating in the celebrations when the race is over. You’ll be amazed to see how the members of the winning contrada parade about town, singing and beating their drums!

At Palio time the whole city is transformed and takes on a surreal atmosphere: the timing of life in the town is determined by the trial runs of the Palio and the celebrations in the various contrade all over the city centre.

Some useful information about how the Palio works:

10 contradas (drawn by lots out of the 17 districts into which the city of Siena is divided) compete in a run a breath-taking horse race to win the longed-for prize, the banner known as the Palio, which the people of Siena have affectionately nicknamed il cencio: the rag!

The race itself, known as the carriera, lasts a minute and a half: that’s how long it takes the horses to run three times around the perimeter of the piazza. The jockeys ride bareback, without a saddle, and frequently fall off as the horse gallops around a sharp corner at full speed. But a horse without a jockey (referred to as scosso) is perfectly eligible to win the race!

Perhaps the most exciting moment is when the order of the horses is called out at the starting line, between the ropes called canapi: if horses from rival contrade are side by side, it may take hours before the race actually starts, as the jockeys vie for the most favourable position.
The Palio is about more than just the race, though: in the hours that precede it, the contrade parading about the city in historic costumes will take you back in time.