It’s time to celebrate the Palio, the competition between contrade that attracts and intrigues tourists from all around the world and at the same time enhances the mood of Senese people.
On 2ndJuly there will be the Palio of the Madonna di Provenzano, the Patroness and Queen of the town of Siena; we will provide you some useful information to watch the race and some tips about the contrade.
First of all, the participants Contrade are: Torre, Nicchio, Civetta, Valdimontone, Leocorno, Oca, Pantera, Selva, Onda and Tartuca. 7 are those who haven’t participated in the previous edition, 3 are randomly selected.
If you are wondering about the preliminary stages of the Palio, we report the rehearsals (which you can watch for free) which will end on 1st July, the rehearsal dinner (scheduled for the evening of 1st July in all the participants Contrade; tourists can join the event and meet the “contradaioli” in a decisive moment before the race), the mass of the jockeys, which is celebrated in the chapel next to the Town Hall at 7:45 am of 2nd July, the “provaccia”, scheduled at 9:00 am, the blessing of the horse and the jockey, which occurs at 3:00 pm, then the start of the parade at 4:30 pm from the courtyard of the Government Palace in Piazza del Duomo, the moment that marks the beginning of Palio.
We recall that on 2nd July you can attend for free to the Palio on Piazza del Campo, but the places at the antlers, as well as places from the windows and balconies overlooking the Piazza, requires a ticket. There isn’t an office of the Palio, so you need to buy the seats from “palcaioli” or by the owners of the apartments, and you should buy in advance the tickets to be sure to get a seat.
Regarding the participants Contrade, discover some oddities about their history: the Torre (Tower) has won 44 Palios, the last in 2005, exactly 10 years ago. The Noble Contrada of Nicchio (Seashell) has managed to make “cappotto” (in Italian this means to win both the Palio of July and the following on August) only once in 1834 and just one of these two races won by a horse “scosso”, that is without jockey.
La Civetta (Little Owl) has the title of Priora because it hosted the first meeting of the Magistrate of the Contrade in 1905; Valdimontone (Valley of the Ram) is called in the jargon “Montone”, it won its last Palio on 2012 and is also the first Contrada that was disqualified, in 1966.
The Contrada of Leocorno (Unicorn) has a motto which refers to the legendary healing properties of the unicorn’s horn, and the museum of the Contrada houses a real narwhal horn.
The Contrada dell’Oca (Goose) holds the record for victories (65) and is the belonging Contrada of St. Catherine of Siena, born in Fontebranda; the Pantera (Panther) has 26 wins and honored the jockey Alfredo Iacopini nicknamed Grattapassere giving this name to the Contrada magazine.
The Selva (Forest) was once the Contrada of hunters and currently doesn’t have a rival, an unusual fact in Siena, because between the 17 contrade alliances and rivalries come on very often.
Onda (Wave) boasts the title of Capitana because, at the time of the Republic of Siena, the military companies of San Salvadore and Casato di Sotto mounted guard at palazzo Pubblico; while Tartuca (Tortoise) boasts 47 victories and is the Contrada which lost fewer consecutive Palios.
Now you are ready to soak up the Palio atmosphere, the most important tradition of Siena!