Palio Horse Race
With the Grand National not far away now, it is certainly the time of year to be thinking about horse racing, and there is none more thrilling than witnessing the spectacle of the Palio Siena. For lovers of horse racing, there is no better experience than witnessing this historical event with the backdrop of the Sienese city.
The Palio begun in Medieval times, but after banning the original version which consisted of bull fighting; the Palio then moved to being horse racing in 1656. The Palio has been held on the same 2 dates every year – 02 July and 16 August.
The locals take to the streets to watch the parades through Siena, view the horse blessings in church, and dine al fresco at their Contrada’s table. The Contrada are the local districts which the city is segmented into regions for. There are currently 17 Contrada regions still racing, but only 10 are allowed to race in each Palio. Some of these Contradas include the Eagle, Caterpillar, Dragon, Unicorn and the Wave.
The day before the race takes place, everyone heads to Piazza del Campo, the centre of Siena, to see the “dress rehearsal” where horses and jockeys are put forward for entrance into the Palio Siena race.
Having selected their 10 jockeys and horses, everyone returns the following day to watch the main event. The build-up is truly momentous as the horses take to the Mossa; the starting line, and complete 3 circuits before the winner is announced.
Whilst it is good to be first, you don’t want to be second – second place is awarded the “Grandmother” and deemed the worse position to be! There are of course a choice of viewing locations to witness the Palio from, including grandstand, balcony and window positions. All of these positions are incredibly sought after.