August 16th marks the second event for the “Palio di Siena”.
If you aren’t familiar with Siena, historically it was the rival city of Florence. Siena is a city located high up on a hill top and fortressed by high stone walls. It is a beautiful little city and it is considered to be the center of Italian language. Those that want to truly study Italian in depth go straight to Siena.
The Palio di Siena is a competition that dates back to medieval times, where the different district of Siena competed on horseback in a race around the central racetrack in the center of Siena (piazza del Campo). The horse race still occurs in modern times. The winner of the race then receives a hand-painted silk banner that represents his victory and his district’s victory. The banner is afterwards placed in a museum with past banners, and the people of the winning district then spend the following weeks celebrating the victory with processions and big dinners.
The major difference between this and regular horse racing? Apart from the medieval costume that is still worn today, horses who lose their jockeys are still able to cross the finish line and potentially win the race by themselves.
The Palio of Siena occurs twice in the summer: once on July 2nd, and the next on August 16th. While both events are the same, there are small differences to make each day unique.
The Palio di Siena is well attended by spectators from Siena, Tuscany, and all over Italy. It is a very popular event and draws a big crowd.
If you’re interested in seeing this even in person, you can: Florencetown offers tours to Siena (including a stop in San Gimignano, a neighboring medieval town). A link to book the tour can be found here.
Even if history doesn’t excite or interest you, the Palio di Siena is fascinating for its uniqueness and its draw. Consider treating yourself to this fascinating event.
Read here what happened on 2013.