Palio horse race, Siena

Palio Horse Race, Siena

The Kentucky Derby and that handsome lad, Justify have nothing on our Palio in Siena.  It’s only the most significant event in the area, so plan to be there starting July 2, and again August 16, for a great time.  The race initially started back in the 6th century and along the way gathered contenders from nearly 60 areas of the city.  Today, that number is down to 17; however, that doesn’t lessen any of the race enthusiasm or passion.  More info on the Palio to follow amici (friends)!  First, we’d like to acclimate you to this beautiful Tuscany region.

One of the ways we suggest you begin your Sienna journey is with a wonderful Wine Cellar Tour to Castello Di Fonterutoli – Mazzei or the Wine Cellar – Argiano.  Access to the awesome Argiano estate is via roads marked by traces of flavors and dusts that are centuries old.  This unique intersection shares glorious atmospheres and panoramas with each visitor.  The peace of the countryside, with its characteristically slow pace, wide open spaces, ever-changing seasons and alternating colors, will soothe out the stress of any difficult day.  Workers carry out their daily work with the utmost respect for the environment and for the elements of the landscape.

And there are more wine cellar opportunities as well.  Check here for more information, on additional wine cellar tours that will take your breath away!

Piazza del Campo is one of Europe’s premier medieval squares.  The architectural integrity and sheer beauty of the square are known worldwide.  The square is shell-shaped and the Palio takes place around the edges because it is covered with tuff clay especially for this event.

And there is, of course, a prize which is presented to the winner.  The Palio prize is called “Drappellone or large drape, a large painted canvas each year designed and created by a different artist and which the winning Contrada (neighborhood) displays in their Contrada museum.

The festivities begin at 8 am in the chapel next to the Palazzo Comunale with a mass for the jockeys.  That is followed at 10:30 by a confirmation of the jockey names, at which point, substitutions cannot be made.  At 3 pm, each neighborhood does a blessing ceremony for the horses and a parade with more than 500 participants all dressed in historical costumes.  The parade ends up around 7 pm, to be followed by firecracker explosion, and the horses enter the piazza groomed for the race.

Before or after the race, there are still many other things to do and see in the beautiful Tuscany region.  Check out this short list of the most significant highlights:

Guided Tour: Cathedral and Cathedral Museum of Siena.  This is a delightful 90-minute event filled with knowledge and insights into culture and art.

There are three additional guided tours that you will find both entertaining and educational for the entire family.  The Way of Virgin Mary, The Way of St. Catherine and The Way of the Cathedrals will each help you better understand the history and traditions that are so well honored and respected by all Italians.  Remember these are deeply religious icons and they deserve the utmost respect, regardless of your personal beliefs.

You’re not required to wear a big, fancy hat to this horse race, but there aren’t any rules that say you can’t!  Set a new fashion trend!

Cavalieri su (rider’s up)!

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