The Palio di Siena
(known locally simply as Il Palio
) is a horse race
held twice each year on July 2 and August 16 in Siena
, Italy, in which ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen Contrade
, or city wards.The Palio held on July 2 is named Palio di Provenzano, in honour of the Madonna of Provenzano, who has a church in Siena. The Palio held on August 16 is named Palio dell'Assunta, in honour of the Assumption of Mary
A magnificent pageant
, the Corteo Storico
, precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world.
The race itself, in which the jockeys ride bareback, circles the Piazza del Campo
, on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid, three times and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is not uncommon for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and indeed it is not unusual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys.
The earliest known antecedents of the race are medieval. The town's central piazza
was the site of public games, largely combative: pugna
, a sort of many-sided boxing
match or brawl; jousting
; and in the 16th century, bullfights
. Public races organized by the Contrade
were popular from the 14th century on; called palii alla lunga
, they were run across the whole city.
When the Grand Duke of Tuscany
outlawed bullfighting in 1590, the Contrade
took to organizing races... Read More