The Palio – YouTube video

You can see by the crowds in the attached video that Il Palio is a major event, with limited capacity.  I don’t even want to hint at the price of a balcony position I will likely buy. From what I understand, the crowd can get quite unruly after an afternoon in the heat, making the balcony a good idea!

Siena is divided into 17 contrade (i.e. neighborhoods) and the race is between the contrade.  Only 10 contrade utlimately run in the Palio, there are time trials leading up to the big day to make that decision. Apparently anything goes in terms of winning and the horse can be riderless to win.

There are two Palios a year, one on July 2nd and one on August 16th, tied to Holy Days.

The names associated with the contrade don’t make any sense to me.  Most of contrade are named for animals, many of which are neither fast nor found in Italy.

  • Aquila (Eagle)
  • Chiocciola (Snail!)
  • Onda (Wave)
  • Selva (Forest)
  • Pantera (Panther)
  • Tartuca (Tortoise)
  • Civetta (Owl)
  • Leocorno (Unicorn)
  • Nicchio (Shell)
  • Torre (Tower)
  • Valdimontone (Ram)
  • Bruco (Caterpillar)
  • Drago (Dragon)
  • Giraffa (Giraffe)
  • Istrice (Porcupine)
  • Lupa (She-wolf)
  • Oca (Goose)

For the horse lovers reading this, be prepared that a horse does go down in this video, but he gets up and continues.  Just a word of caution as I know that may bother some of you.

You will also see several riders take some hard falls. As this is a bareback race it can be quite easy to fall off the horse. It is a bit like Pamplona’s “running of the bulls” in terms of the potential of getting trampled.

About Sophia la Vespa

I'm a sweet little Italian import exploring Seattle. You're welcome to follow me! 😉
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