Italy 2006

Siena Palio, 2 July

The Palio is a horse race, bareback, three time around the Campo (Siena's main square), which has been run in much the same way since the seventeenth century. The rules are too complicated to explain here: look them up on the web if you are interested ( One thing that became very clear to us is that this is not something that is done to amuse the tourists: it is part of being a citizen of Siena, and it is taken very seriously.

The night before the Palio, each of the Sienese contrade (districts) that is competing holds a dinner. We are fortunate in being able to attend the dinner held by the Aquila contrada, in the Duomo square. This photo shows all the tables set up for the dinner, which had some 900 diners.

During the dinner.

The stone paving around the edge of the Campo is covered with clay for the Palio, to give the horses something to get a grip on, and seating is erected against all the buildings facing the Campo. The restaurants keep trading regardless.

Once the track has been cleared of tables and people, the next task is to clean the rubbish off it. Note the good old-fashioned brooms.

And then the spectators wait for the parade to begin.


Everyone who took part in the parade came down the street under our window to reach the Campo. Rather than joining the crush in the Campo (where we probably would not see much), we stayed in our room, looking at the parade preparations from our window and watching the race and other activities in the Campo on television.

One of the participants from the Aquila contrada.

Aquila flag-throwers.

This was not a comfortable costume in the July heat.

A flag-thrower from the Onda contrada.


Teaching his grandson how to clap.

The horse that eventually won the race, for the Pantera contrada.

What anachronism?

The Aquila horse in full flight.

Victorious Pantera contrada members with the Palio.

Once the race is over, everyone leaves the Campo and the clean-up begins.

Later in the evening, the Campo has vendors selling novelties, including these Tweety balloons.

Click here to go on to some sights of the Tuscan countryside.

Copyright © 2006 by Nick and Lynn Booth. This page last edited 12 April, 2010
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