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Palio di Siena

Why is The Palio di Siena Celebrated?

The Palio di Siena is a well-known event all around the world. It is one of the most important horse rides and it takes place in Siena, a medieval city in the Italian region of Tuscany, two times per year: on July 2 and August 16 in Piazza del Campo in a circular racetrack.

The Palio di Siena

Why is The Palio di Siena Celebrated?

The Palio exists since the XIII century. It celebrates the miraculous appearance of the Virgin Mary near Provenzano Salvani’s old house. The Palio of the July 2 commemorates this sacred apparition was called the “Madonna of Provenzano“. While on August 16 it is celebrated the heroine and Advocate of Siena “Madonna dell’Assunta”, since on that date in 1658, she protected the Sienese militia against Florentines in the famous battle of Monteaperti on September 4, 1260. The Palio di Siena on 16 August was then added from 1701. In 1721, it was written the definitive rules with which the Palio is also today run.

What Do You Get If You Win the Palio di Siena?

The Palio di Siena takes place two times per year and it is run by 10 Contrade over the 17 overall. In fact, the city of Siena, inside its wall, is divided into 17 parts, which one is “owned” by a Contrada. But not all they run every Palio. There is a mechanism based on a simple rotation. For example, on August, 10 Contrade run the Palio, and 7 are out. In the next August, the 7 which were out will run as a right, while 3 more are chosen randomly between the 10 that have run the year before. The Contrada which wins the Palio di Siena gets the Palio, a drope called Drappellone, which means large drape. It is a large-scale painted silk canvas designed and painted by different local artists every year. During the celebrations, the winning Contrada brings the canvas to its museum, where is ever possible to be visited.

Can a Riderless Horse Win The Palio di Siena?

While thinking about the Palio di Siena, it’s important to understand that the only protagonist are the horses. The horses are assigned to the 10 Contrada which participate in the Palio. So, a riderless horse can win the Palio di Siena and it already happened in history. The most recent of these cases was on August 16, 2019, where Selva’s horse Remorex wins it without his jockey who was felt before.

Every Contrada participating in the Palio gets his horse a few days before the competition. Ten horses are selected, then they are assigned casually drawing lots to every Contrada. Of course, there are horses that have a sort of reputation. For example, a horse could have already ridden the Palio before, or maybe win. It is very important for the Contrada, but not everything. Whether the horse is, he is going to be a protagonist for the next few days. Every Contrada takes his drawn horse, bringing it in their own stable. The “Barbereschi” are the men who are going to watch over the horse during all the four days ahead of the Palio. After three days of trials, every Contrada organizes a propitiatory dinner that involves thousands of people (Contradaioli). The day after, every horse is blessed and consecrated by their “Correttore”, the priest, into their own churches.


Photo: morebearinthenorth/Pixabay