Festival of the Palio

Palio, Festival of the

July 2, August 16
The Palio of the Contrade is a horse race that has been held twice a year in Siena, Tuscany, Italy, since the 13th century. The race features Siena's 17 contrade, or "ward organizations." In the Middle Ages these were rival military companies, but they are now social clubs. In each race, 10 of Siena's 17 contrade compete, hiring a professional jockey and selecting his attendants. The 10 contrade that will participate are determined by a drawing. Each contrade also has its own animal symbol, flag, color, museum, church, and motto. In medieval costume and with banners flying, the riders form a procession that carries the Palio, painted silk standards, through the city streets.
The race itself is run in the city's main square, the Piazza del Campo. There is intense rivalry, distrust, cheating, fixing, and bribery and frequent fights. The jockeys ride bareback, each holding a whip, which he can use on his opponents' horses as well as on his own. Riders for the finalist contrade race three times around the Piazza, and the winning contrade receives the Palio to hang on its church until the next festival. Revelry and merrymaking continue until dawn, and the winning jockey is honored with a victory dinner.
The second big race, held on August 16, is known as Madonna del Voto Day, in honor of the Virgin Mary.
CONTACTS:
Comune of Siena, The Public Relations Office
Piazza del Campo, 7
Siena, 53100 Italy
39-577-292230
www.comune.siena.it
Siena Tourist Information
Piazza del Campo, 56
Siena, 53100 Italy
39-577-280551; fax: 39-577-2810-41
www.italiantourism.com
SOURCES:
AnnivHol-2000, p. 111
BkFest-1937, p. 187
BkHolWrld-1986, Aug 16
FestWestEur-1958, p. 98
GdWrldFest-1985, p. 119
OxYear-1999, pp. 277, 335
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