I’m not one to put something in all caps lightly so it is a big deal to write about IL PALIO! The Palio is undeniably the biggest and most important event in Siena for the locals and tourists alike. In the two weeks proceeding the Palio, Piazza del Campo underwent a grandscale transformation. Gates went up around the center of the square while wooden stands went up around the perimeter above the Campo’s restaurants.

There is a very rich history behind the significance of the Palio. (You can find more information on the Palio di Siena’s official website.) I briefly wrote about the 17 contradas that enter into the Palio race in an earlier post. After being in the middle all the festivities and the actual race, I can see that the The Sienese people live and breathe their contrada and the they talk about the race all year. From what I was told, on the night before the official race, a married couple from different contradas must sleep in separate beds! *Which reminds me just a little bit of Romeo&Juliet* The race is a very serious affair and it is for the locals, by the locals. Even Italians visiting from outside of the Tuscany region are not the same as the locals who are born into a contrada. All tourists are just outsiders, and should not even think about interfering with the affairs of the event!

Sunday: a prova race

There are several trial runs before the actual event. I loved seeing everyone wearing their contrada’s flags around their neck, and the father and sons that stood out to me. Even these races were packed and it was at times hard to breathe or even see what was going on. After a long wait, the horses began to line up, but taking their time pacing around. Finally the race started and it was over in the blink of an eye. Some people around me were saying that the Bruco (symbol: caterpillar) Contrada had won the race, but I got mixed feelings from the young Bruco girls that were standing near me–they were actually in tears. Soon after that observation, a fight actually broke out on the racetrack right in front of us. We were wondering what was going on, but thankfully my friends and I were only pushed around a bit, and were not involved. It was a scary yet exhilarating experience that would prepare me for the actual Palio.

Bruco father and son Panther father and son

Monday: the general trial

The last trial run is supposedly insignificant to people, but I watched it at a cafe in the city center, just a short walk away from the Campo itself. It was definitely more relaxed to sit down on a chair while sipping cappucino. In the cafe, I still found some locals, taking the same leisurely approach to watching the race.

a man from the panther contrada comfortably watching the action my delish cup of cappucino, all done!

Tuesday: IL PALIO & the winners– La Imperiale Contrada della Giraffa

The Campo actually closed around 5pm the day and it was EXTREMELY hot. People who wanted to enter the main square could only go in through one entrance/exit, and I felt like a trapped sardine. However, I had fun taking in my surroundings. I was in the company of the Nobile Contrada del Bruco again. The race took some time to start, around 7ish, because the jockeys were entering into “talks” with each other. The last horse would take its time to get into the starting line, and here the locals mention that bribery and extortion is definitely a common-place topic (which explained the pacing around that happened on Sunday too). The race starts without even a gunshot and it was over in seconds (ok, max 2 minutes) and the giraffes were the victors!

Il Campo line for fountain water Il Campo, now an urban beach the smart people carry (colorful) umbrellas covered up an Italian reading about the Palio, at Il Palio! it's hotter than it looks shake your flags now for good luck jockeys and horses in the distance

[[to be edited with photos, etc.]]

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