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THE PALIO HORSE RACE -16th AUGUST 2018 - THE GUIDE

The Palio is the most important event in Siena, taking place on July 2 and August 16 every year.

In the Palio, the various Sienese "contrade", or areas in which the city is divided, challenge each other in a passionate horse race in the heart of the city in the Piazza del Campo.

The 17 Contrade are the Eagle, Snail, Wave, Panther, Forest, Tortoise, Owl, Unicorn, Shell, Tower, Ram, Caterpillar, Dragon, Giraffe, Porcupine, She-Wolf and the Goose.

Each Contrada has its own unique emblem and colors and represents an area of the city. As one walks through the streets of Siena it is easy to know in which Contrada you currently are in by observing the flags and emblems displayed along the street.

The Palio is much more than a simple event for the Sienese, it actually is a large part of their lives since the time of their birth. Each person belongs to a Contrada, participates in the life of the Contrada and the organization of the Palio throughout the entire year. The Sienese live the Palio with great passion and you'll certainly be able to see this if you have the chance to attend one of the races. 

The day of the Palio

On the day of the Palio race the city is in full turmoil and the entire day is dedicated to the event.

Around 8 a.m., in the chapel next to the Palazzo Comunale, the Bishop celebrates the "Messa del fantino" or mass for the horse jockeys. Shortly after the mass the last trial takes place in Piazza del Campo, the one called "provaccia".

At 10.30 a.m. within the Palazzo Comunale and in the presence of the mayor, the "segnatura dei fantini" takes place. The name of the jockeys are confirmed and cannot be substituted from that point on.

At around 3 p.m. each Contrada performs a blessing ceremony of its horse and afterwards joins in the large parade in historical costume, with over 600 participants, that winds through the city. The parade arrives around 5 p.m. at the Piazza del Campo, and ends by around 6.30-7 p.m. Shortly thereafter the explosion of a firecracker signals the entrance of the horses into the piazza. As the jockeys come out, each one receives a whip made out of ox sinew which they can use to prod their horse or to irrate the other opponents in the race.

The Race: Il Palio

The race starts off in the "Mossa", an area set up on the piazza delimited by two long pieces of thick rope. The "Mossiere" then calls the Contrade in the order in which they were drawn and checks that the assigned positions are respected. The first 9 Contrade take up their assigned positions in the area between the two ropes, while the last one, the tenth, enters this area at a running gallop thus signaling the start of the race. This only happens when this last Contrada decides to make the attempt to start off the race.

If the start is not considered valid (this is the case if the jockeys are not in their assigned spots), a shot goes out to signal the jockeys to get back into place. This starting phase within the "Mossa" is more complicated than it seems, as the space is small and the horses are right next to each other. Rivalries run deep within the Contrade and competition is high and the worst result is to see the "enemy" Contrada win the race. The wait for the start of the race can thus be extremely long and last into twilight.

If all goes well the start of the race can start at any time. The horses must run three laps around the Campo, overcoming dangerous points such as the very narrow curve of San Martino where collisions between the wall and between horses have led to many falls in the past (the main reason why many animal activists oppose the Palio).

The first horse that crosses the finish line, even if he arrives without his jockey, wins the race. The winning Contrada receives the Drappellone, as the victorious Contrada members head towards the Church of Provenza (after the July race) or towards the Duomo (after the August race) for the "Te Deum" or prayer of thanks.

 

August 13th

12:00 Assigning of the Horses to the Contrade
7:15 The first Prova

August 14th

9:00 The Second Prova
5:00 The Procession of the "Cero Votivo," Votive Candle
7:15 The Third Prova

August 15th

9:00 The Fourth Prova
7:15 The Prova Generale
Dinner of The Prova Generale afterwards

August 16th

7:30 Mass of the Fantino in the Chapel of Piazza del Campo
9:00 Last Prova, known as the "Provaccia"
In the early afternoon, around 2:00, in the church of every contrada which participates in the Palio there is the Benediction of the Horses and of the Fantino
4:00 The Closing of Piazza del Campo begins
The only entrance way is at Via Dupre until 6:00 when the piazza is completely closed.
5:00 The beginning of the historic pageant
7:00 The corsa begins
 

 


 

 

THE PALIO HORSE RACE -16th AUGUST 2018 - THE GUIDE

The Palio is the most important event in Siena, taking place on July 2 and August 16 every year.

In the Palio, the various Sienese "contrade", or areas in ......

 

 

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