Siena Palio Trips
Think Siena, think Palio horse race. Twice a year the Siena Palio race takes place. Within the ancient city walls the Sienese locals take to the streets to parade, hold good luck open-air dinners for their chosen Contrada (team) and wave their banners in support.
Viewing positions vary ranging from the Grandstand Seats (the locals favourite), Balconies and Windows. All of these are very highly sought after, and Italian Short Breaks is proud to say we have secured an extensive range of these excellent positions for the Palio, Siena race. Your position for the race is key to making sure you witness as much of the action as possible.
Attending a Contrada Dinner, seeing the horses and jockeys being chosen to race, and a guided Palio introduction is also included. This is a Palio Siena break giving you unique insider access to this historical event.
We use local guides whose love for the Palio along with their abundant knowledge, provide you with a full understanding of what is happening around you.
Each year Il Palio, Siena takes place on the same two dates of 02 July and 16 August.
History of the Race
The Siena Palio retains its historical roots beginning as far back as the mediaeval ages when buffalos and donkeys were ridden, before the practice of horses in 1656.
Siena is synonymous with the Palio horse race as the locals take this very seriously as the race is a culmination of the rivalry between the Contradas (districts), that builds throughout the year. Siena Palio Contradas
There are 17 Contradas still competing, all represented by icons such as the dragon, unicorn, panther and she-wolf. Only 10 of these 17 Contradas participate in each Siena Palio; 7 that have not run in the previous year’s race and the remaining 3 are chosen from lots. The Trials & Proves
The Trials are when first the horses, and then the jockeys are chosen to represent each of the Contradas taking part. The Proves, akin to a dress rehearsal is when the Carabinieri in their attire parade and wave their flags, and the horses and jockeys love their free run before the actual Palio.The Palio Siena Race
Plenty of money is known to change hands between the Contradas so that the jockeys all manoeuvre at the starting line so that rival Contrada horses are in the worse position for when the tenth horse enters the line, which heralds the start of the race. Each year the Siena Palio is won by the first horse that completes three circuits of the Campo; even if the jockey is no longer mounted! To be in a good position to witness the Siena Palio we would recommend you are in the Casata, San Martino bend or at the Mossa (start and finish of the race), where the main action takes place. The jockeys ride bareback, though they are allowed reins!Rules of the Palio, Siena
There is only one real rule once the Siena Palio race starts and that is that no jockey is allowed to grab another horse’s reins; otherwise anything goes!The Winner of the Siena Palio
The winner of the Siena Palio is highly congratulated by his Contrada, with jockey and horse being hugged. He then climbs up to grab the banner of hand-painted silk, along with a babies dummy and bottle as his prize. The Sienese see winning the Palio as a right of passage from child to adulthood – hence the dummy and babies bottle.Second Place
Coming second in the Siena Palio race is considered as the worse position to be and the jockey is considered the main loser. The Contrada which has lost the most times is considered the Grandmother as a result and this is not a compliment!Activities
Italian Short Breaks offer the opportunity to watch the parade, join in the good luck open-air Contrada dinners for the riders and horses arranged by each district, attend a blessing of the horse in the district church and a guided tour to help explain the machinations of the Palio, Siena.Hotels
To be within easy walking distance of the main Siena Palio events, you should be located within the castle walls, and our recommendations of Palazzo Ravizza and Hotel Athena are well placed for this. Both have on site parking.
Palazzo Ravizza is a small, family run 19th century pensione, previously a converted palace, which is close to both the Piazzo del Campo (where the Palio, Siena race takes place) and the cathedral. It has a garden and delightful panoramic views of the Sienese countryside.
Hotel Athena is located only slightly away from the centre, but still within easy walking distance of the Siena Palio Campo. It has a more modern feel to both the hotel and the restaurant. There are fantastic views of the countryside including cypress trees and old farmhouses. Enjoy a drink or appetizer on the San Marco terrace whilst watching the sunset.Holiday Extensions
The Palio, Siena is well located for many main cities in Italy. It works well combined with the Verona Opera
, sometime in Renaissance Florence or a few days in the floating metropolis which is Venice.