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Palio di Siena

The Palio is the most important event in Siena and it has involved the life of Sienese people over time and in many different aspects and feelings: “You run the Palio all year long”, someone says. It is a horse race run in Piazza del Campo and it was born long time ago (the earliest known antecedents of the race are medieval and some present day regulations are still valid since 1644, when it was run the first Palio with horses, as it is run today).

It is held on July 2nd (named Palio di Provenzano, in honour of Madonna of Provenzano) and August 16th (named Palio dell’Assunta, in honour of the Assumption of Mary) and it is run by 10 of the 17 Contrade (city wards) that form the city.

Each Contrada is like a small state, ruled by a Seat headed by the Prior and led in the “carousel” by a Captain, assisted by two or three contradaioli called “Mangini”; their boundaries was established in 1729 by Proclamation of Violante of Bavaria, Governor of the City.

You have to know that a spectacular medieval pageant (the Corteo Storico), precedes the race and the trophy is called Drappellone (rag) or Palio; it is a piece of hand-painted silk, made every time by a different artist: that’s why you could see the “entire” Italian history of art only through these rags.

 

Some useful hours:

 

JUNE 27th, 5:30am – 7:30am: training tests.

JUNE 28th / AUGUST 12th,  5:30am – 7:30am: training tests.

 

JUNE 29th / AUGUST 13th

7:30 am: presentation of the horses for selection tests (“Batterie”)
9:00 am:  the “tratta” takes place. It is the task with which the horses are paired to the ten Contrade taking part in the Palio. Horses will be visited by veterinarians and the eligibles are grouped into “batterie” and tested for three laps to check their adaptability to the runway. At the end, the Captains gather to choose the ten horses.

 

JUNE 29th / AUGUST 13th

12:00am / 1:00pm: on a stage set up in front of the Palazzo Pubblico, you can see the operations of the draw: each horse is coupled with a Contrada. For each assignment the “Barbaresco” takes the assigned horse and leads it to the stables, accompanied by the people of his Contrada.

7:45pm / 7:15pm:  The first trial of the six preceding the Palio. These races are necessary to check the conditions of horses and Jockeys. For each test, the horse is accompanied at the “Entrone” (the entrance of the Palazzo Pubblico) from the stable of the contrada by a large group of contradaioli, who frequently sings traditional songs.

Each contrada chooses a Jockey who can be changed until the morning of Palio. Only the horse cannot be changed. The horses come to the couches in the order in which the contrada will take place on the evening of the Palio for the pageant.

 

JUNE 30th / AUGUST 14th

9:00 am: second test. Entry of the horses in the reverse order (compared to the previous evening).

7:45pm / 7:15pm: third test. Entry of the horses in the order of the extraction occurred during the assignment of the horses.

 

JULY 1st / AUGUST 15th

9:00am: fourth test. Entry between the ropes in the reverse order of the previous evening.

7:45pm / 7:15pm: general test (“prova generale”). Entry between the ropes according to the number that the horses had on the ear the day of the draw. Before the test, the traditional “charge” of the carabinieri on horseback.

8:30pm: dinner of the general test. In all the Contrade who are running the Palio, contradaioli, guests and even tourists are having a dinner in honor of the protagonists of the carousel. At the table of honour with the leaders of the contrada is sitting the Jockey. Songs, speeches and hopes are made in favor of the contrada.

 

JULY 2nd / AUGUST 16th

7:45am: in the chapel adjacent to the Palazzo Comunale it is celebrated by the Archbishop the “messa del Fantino”.

9:00am: “Provaccia”. Named in this way because of the general disinterest of the Contrade. After this test, captains and jockeys gather at the municipality for the inscription of the Jockey and the presentation of the jacket that will wear. From this moment the Jockey can not be changed anymore.

3:30pm / 3:00pm: blessing of the horse and jockey in the oratory of each Contrada. The priest concludes the mystical ritual, with the hope that it is almost an order: go and come back a winner!

4:30pm / 3:50pm: the medieval pageant starts from the courtyard of the Government Palace in Piazza del Duomo, directed to Piazza del Campo.

5:20pm / 4:50pm: the historical pageant enters Piazza del Campo, according to the order of the first test

Viewers can go into the square even after the start of the historical parade through the via Giovanni Duprè (this entrance is closed only a few minutes before the race).

It is however recommended to reach the square at least half an hour before the parade. In Piazza del Campo everyone can attend the Palio for free, standing . It is perhaps the most exciting way to see the race, mixed together with Sienese people.

7:30pm / 7:00pm:  the rag is hoisted on the stage of the judges and the Palio starts!

 

 

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