Siena, Its World Famous Palio
A journey back into the Medieval tradition
The Palio is a complex manifestation organised by the commune of Siena. It is run twice a year, in July. There are two events this month the Palio of Provenzano and the Palio dell'Assunta. Ten districts or "contrade", (composed of the 7 which did not run the previous year and three others drawn at random) compete. In each district a horse is chosen, again at random through the drawing of lots, from a group of ten that are judged and selected as physically fit to run the race.
The assigning of the horse takes place on the morning late June for the Palio of July- this part is called 'la tratta' and marks the beginning of a festival which lasts for four days. The 'Carriera' or race is preceded by 6 trial runs, three of which take place in the morning and three in the evening of the four days, giving the jockey, chosen by the 'contrada', time to get familiar with the horse.
The last of the evening trial runs is called 'la prova generale' while the last trial run of all, run on the morning of the Palio itself, is called 'la provaccia'. The race consists of three laps run around the Piazza del Campo on a track of tufa traced in the ring above the statue of the shell. The horses start from the Mossa, composed of two ropes behind which nine 'contrade' are lined up in a pre-established (by drawing of lots) order. When the last horse enters, the so-called 'rincorsa', the front rope is lowered and the start is announced.
The winner is the contrada whose horse arrives first at the finish, with or without its jockey, after completing three laps of the piazza. The prize consists of the Palio or 'drappellone', realised every year by an artist chosen for the purpose by the commune, a dearly cherished trophy that the contrada keeps forever in its own museum.
Entrance to the piazza is free.