You cannot visit Siena without running into the Palio. The
tradition of the Palio in Siena is an integral part of city
life; everything speaks of the Palio in Siena; everything
revolves around the Palio in Siena. The Palio is not just a
horse race, it is the metaphor of life and, for many in Siena,
it is a reason for living.
Dedicating a tour to the tradition of the Palio in Siena is almost mandatory by a licensed guide like me, even if I live the Palio as a "foreigner" being a Florentine by birth and a Siena guide by choice.
A tour dedicated to the tradition of the Palio in Siena can be done all year round even if most of the time the Palio is something intangible that you breathe in the air and only for 4 days twice a year does it become something material that you can see and experience. What is the Palio? A horse race that takes place in Piazza del Campo twice a year, on July 2nd and August 16th.
It would seem one of the many folkloristic events that are found around Italy but the Palio di Siena is something different. First of all, it has been running since at least the middle of the thirteenth century and has never had any interruptions: it is not a sporting-folkloristic competition recently rediscovered and resumed but the tradition of the Palio in Siena has been repeating itself almost unchanged for 800 years. It is a race that features the horse, respected and protected by everyone.
It is a race that sees the 17 Contrade of Siena against each other always respecting an unwritten code of ethics. It is a leap into the past of the city when Siena was a powerful Republic that showcased the best Knights ready to fight for their homeland. The tour dedicated to the tradition of the Palio in Siena will make you know better and without stereotypes what is this horse race for the Sienese.
We will learn to recognize the colors of the districts, we will
learn that the Palio has its own language and that the flag bearer
is not so-called here in Siena, just as you cannot "cheer" on a
district because the district is not a sports team. We will learn
that there are precise rules for following the Palio, especially
on the feast days.
The tradition of the Palio in Siena includes anecdotes and curiosities, superstitions and adventurous stories that I will tell you during this guided tour.
The guided tour dedicated to the tradition of the Palio in Siena is concentrated in the places where the Palio takes place on July 2nd and August 16th.
Everything revolves around the square, Piazza del Campo, where the race takes place, the final and culminating act of the party.
In the Entrone (courtyard) of Palazzo Pubblico, the horses trample before entering the square, the well-compacted earth covers the sandstone on the outside lap of the square, creating the track for the horse race, the contradaioli wait and occupy the best places from the morning , the comparse occupy the seats reserved for them in the stands.
In addition to the square, the Palio lives in every street of every district and during this tour dedicated to the tradition of the Palio in Siena we will have the opportunity to visit one or more districts and talk to the same contradaioli who will explain to us what the Palio represents for them, how they live it, how the districts prepare themselves for the race all year round.
Each district has its own museum, which is usually not open to the public but which is opened on request. In the museums of the district are preserved the relics, the uniforms, the Palii won which can be very ancient and very precious. Besides, each district has its own oratory, small churches that preserve unimaginable works of art.
Multiply everything by 17 and you can imagine how much wealth and beauty are hidden in the medieval streets of Siena. Discovering the tradition of the Palio in Siena is an experience that will touch you and that will remain indelible among your most beautiful memories.
Tuscany is not only an Italian region, it’s a place of the heart