My Siena Palio holiday
I was fortunate recently to see the historical town of Siena which has been made famous by the Palio horse race. This fantastic little town is built on a hill with all roads leading down into the main campo (square) where the horse racing takes place.
It was great to see this place first hand and get a feel for the place we send so many people to each year, to witness this unique event. A Siena Palio holiday is definitely one for either a special occasion. Siena is broken down into contradas which are like districts where each contrada competes to win the twice yearly Palio. Whilst in the town I was lucky enough to be allowed into the August 2016 winning contrada’s Museum – The Forest. This was a very intricately and elaborately designed church, which downstairs also had the memorabilia from previous successful wins.
We wandered through the town witnessing several of the different districts along with finding some time to buy a contrada cloth. I chose the Il Drago (the dragon) as I love these mythological creatures. I also found some time to sample a local snack – Ricciarelli, which are almond biscuits, and as with most Italian food is very more-ish!
After lunch on the campo, I then took myself off to find the two hotels we love in Siena. Palazzo Ravizza and Hotel Athena are located very close to each other, around a five minute walk from the square, and with each having a car park, these hotels are perfect for those travelling by hire car to the region. Being close to the castle walls that encase Siena, also means an easier drive as the Siena streets are not for cars.
It was great to find out more about this historic event, and why Siena comes alive at Palio time. It also really helped to see the campo is not on one level, which makes the positions we sell so important. To see this race properly you need to be close to the Mossa (the start and finish line) and be either in a grandstand position where you are close to the action, or elect for a window or balcony where you can see over the square. Please note for both the latter two options, these buildings that house the windows and balconies are cosy, and are kept with tradition of the build.
For anyone travelling to the region, especially if you have a hire car and a few hours, I would definitely recommend visiting San Gimignano, before you travel on for your Siena Palio holiday. This small town is quite distinct with its towers dominating the landscape. The towers are the remnants of the local families all vying for supremacy and flaunting their wealth. Whilst most of these towers have not survived a battle with the Florentines along with the passage of years, there are still currently thirteen of the original seventy-two in place, and a climb to the top of the bell tower is recommended for a great view, but only with good health. Ladies are recommended not to opt for dresses or skirts if attempting the climb – the last part is by ladder and can only be climbed one at a time.
San Gimignano is on the way to Siena, making this a must stop for a short detour, whilst also letting you explore more of the Chianti region, and of course it’s wine – seriously some of the best I’ve tasted!