Siena’s Palio

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On July 2 and August 16 every year, time stops and Siena returns to the Middle Ages with Tuscany’s loveliest historical re-enactment: the Palio. A circular tuff track is laid down for the famous bareback horse race in Siena’s beautiful Piazza del Campo square. But the festival begins four days before the race with the lottery that assigns the horses to the 10 of Siena’s 17 contrade (quarters) participating in the race. In the days leading up to the Palio, the jockeys study each other’s moves during the practice runs, even up to the last one on the morning of the actual race, called the Provaccia.

The race consists of three laps around the square. The departure is from the “Mossa” zone, consisting of two large ropes between which the first 9 horses are aligned, the order of alignment having been determined by the draw of the contrade. When the tenth horse (the rincorsa) finally makes its move into the starting zone, the starter drops the front rope and the race begins. The first horse across the finish line (with or without its jockey) wins the painted silk banner, or palio, a unique work of art created each time by a famous artist.

For further information, visit the Palio di Siena site

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