The Palio of Siena is the most famous celebration of the Sienese tradition. It is a famous horse race. Siena (city in Tuscany) is divided in 17 Contrade (districts) ; the inhabitants are very attached to their contrade. Each Contrade faces with the others during the Palio (“horse race” in Italian). The rivalty between the Contrade are rekindled on the occasion of the Palio.
Each Contrade has an emblem (an animal), colours, a dictum, a patron saint and a reference art or profession. The teams parade with costumes, flags, music… The inhabitants support their team in wearing the colors of their Contrade. It is very pleasant and fun to see this folklore.
In summer, the race takes place “Piazza del Campo” two times : the 2 july and 16 August. I went the 6 August 2008 ; we waited hours in the crowded Piazza del campo. The Piazza was closed some time before the start of the Palio. The wait was well worth it so much was spectacular even if it was short (2 minutes). We could see the horses running around us because the Piazza del Campo’s shape is curved. It was an unique experience.
The 17 Contrade in Siena :
In a scene of the James Bond’s movie “Quantum of solace”, we can see the Palio of Siena :