Palio di Siena: how it works and unfolds, meaning

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A description of how the Palio di Siena works and takes place with a description of the origins and profound meaning of this ancient popular festival.


Meaning of the Palio di Siena

The Palio di Siena is an event that takes place in the city of Siena, which consists of an equestrian competition between the Contrade of the city.

It is an event very much felt by the Sienese people that is preparing all year round for the two important events on July 2nd, when the Palio di Provenzano is run, in honor of the Madonna of Provenzano, and on August 16th, the date on which it takes place the Palio dell'Assunta, in honor of the Madonna Assunta.


The place where the spectacular races take place is the beautiful Piazza del Campo.

The Palio, whose origins are very ancient, is affirmed as it is today in the seventeenth century, while the territorial boundaries of the seventeen Contrade were defined in 1729 through a Call published by Violante Beatrice of Bavaria, Governor of the city on behalf of the Medici.

The occasion also set the limit for the participation of 10 Contrade at a time.


How the Palio di Siena takes place

Each Contrada has a seat made up of a Prior, a Captain assisted by two or three contradaioli called "mangini", and a Church with an annexed seat where all the relics are kept.

The party begins with the outbreak of a firecracker and the exit of the horses on the field, then each jockey is given an ox sting that can serve both to incite the horse and to hinder opponents during the race.

The order in which the horses are arranged along two taut ropes, called the "move", is drawn, the tenth horse starts running. In case of invalid departure a firecracker will be blown up again.


The competition includes three laps of the track, the horse that arrives first, also "shaken", ie without a jockey, wins.

Once the Palio winners have received the Palio, they immediately go to Provenzano for the Palio in July, and to the Duomo for the Palio in August, to sing the Te Deum, a song of thanks.

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On the occasion of exceptional events or anniversaries, an "extraordinary" Palio can be organized between the months of May and September, as has already happened a few times in the past.

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