The culmination of the Palio di Siena is a 90-second horse race. But for Sienese, it is so much more than that: it is an embodiment of civic pride that has been held since 1656
The Palio di Siena horse race has been held twice a year, in July and August. Ten horses and riders representing ten of the city wards compete in a 3 laps race around the Piazzo del Campo. ThePalio is a way of life that dominates throughout the year.
There are seventeen contrade, or wards, in Siena. Each contrada is a city within a city that provides a social structure, a support network and civic identity. The Palio is the culmination of the rivalry between the contrade.
Each Contrada is like a Republic, with a Parliament, and assembly. There is a Priore, which the head of the Contrada, the Captain which is the Ministry of War and in charge of the Palio and many other roles.
Quote "The Palio in fact is like a War". The Palio is not a re-enact, is not made for tourists. It's real and it can get brutal.
The Tratta is the day that open the Palio. 4 days before the actual race.
40 horses run around the Campo. Only 10 get picked by the different Captains.
Through a lottery, the 10 selected horses get given to each Contrada. Some horses are better than others and the Campo knows it. The "Barbaresco" is in charge to pick the horse and bring it back to the Contrada. Only in that moment the Captain and i Mangini (his deputies) start contacting the jockeys.
Once the jockey has agreed, he arrives in the Contrada and kept in a secured place for 4 days and escorted 24h a day.
From the evening of the Tratta the test run begin. There are 2 test run a day till the day of the Palio, in total 6 test run.
In these 3 evenings each Contrada, even the ones that don't run, hold the 'cenini' (small dinners). The night before the Palio is the main dinner with the jockey too.
The atmosphere and the tension in the city grow every day, till the day of the race.
Everything ends in 90 seconds but a victory last for ever and get celebrated throughout the following year.