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Palio di Siena - The Palio of Siena

About Siena

Basic Information:


About Palio of Siena

The Palio of Siena is one of the most famous Italian manifestations saved to our days. It is a beautiful and spectacular competition between the districts of Siena in the form of a carousel horse with medieval origin.

It is organized every year on July 2 and August 16. The Palio is run to celebrate the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary near the old houses that belonged to Provenzano Salvani. The holy apparition was therefore called "Madonna di Provenzano" in whose honour the very first Palio was run on August 16, 1656. The Palio was run for the first time in 1701 in honor of the "Madonna dell'Assunta"  (Our Lady of the Assumption) the patroness and Advocate of Siena through all the tragic events since she protected the Sienese militia at the famous battle of Monteaperti on September 4, 1260, against the Florentines.

The Palio is a historical secular tradition strictly connected with the origin of the Contradas of Siena (districts into which the town is divided). The Contradas are spectacular agonistic institutions and each is having their own government, oratory, coat of arms, appellations, sometimes titles of nobility, emblems and colours, official representatives, festivities, patron Saints, with protectors, delimited territories and population which consist of all those people who were born or live within the topographic limits of the district, according to the proclamation issued by Violante Beatrice of Bavaria on January 7, 1730, at that time, Governess of the town.

Originally, there were about fifty-nine "Contrade", now only seventeen remain, ten of which take part in the historical pageant and in the race at each Palio (seven by right and three drawn by lots).

The list of the names, emblems and colours grouped into "Terzi" or "Terzieri" (in olden times the town was divided into three sections called: "Terziere di Città", "Terziere di San Martino" and "Terziere di Camollia"):

  • Terziere di Città
    • Aquila (Eagle) a double-headed eagle with imperial symbols. Yellow with black and blue bands.
    • Chiocchiola (Snail) a snail. Yellow and red with blue bands.
    • Onda (Wave) a swimming dolphin wearing a crown. White and blue.
    • Pantera (Panther) a rampant panther. Red and blue with white bands.
    • Selva (Forest) a rhinoceros bearing a huge tree hung with hunting implements. Green and orange-yellow with white bands.
    • Tartuca (Tortoise) a tortoise. Yellow and blue.
  • Terziere di San Martino
    • Civetta (Owl) an owl. Black and red with white bands.
    • Leocorno (Unicorn) a unicorn. White and orange-yellow with blue bands.
    • Nicchio (Shell) a seashell. Blue with yellow and red bands.
    • Torre (Tower) an elephant with a tower on its back. Dark bordeaux red with white and blue bands.
    • Valdimontone or simply Montone (Ram) a rampant ram. White and yellow with red bands.
  • Terziere di Camollia
    • Bruco (Caterpillar) a caterpillar. Yellow and green with blue bands.
    • Drago (Dragon) a flying dragon. Red and green with yellow bands.
    • Giraffa (Giraffe) a giraffe. White and red.
    • Istrice (Porcupine) a porcupine. White, red, black and blue bands.
    • Lupa (She-Wolf) the Roman She-Wolf suckling the twins. Black and white with orange-yellow bands.
    • Oca (Goose) a crowned goose with the cross of Savoia round its neck. White and green with red bands.


Opening Hours

Each year, the schedule for the palio remains exactly the same, with dates for the first Palio always from June 29th to July 2nd, and dates for the second Palio always from August 13th to August 16th. Of course there are many preparations, small celebrations, dinners and ceremonies during the weeks preceding and following the official dates of the Palio. Don't miss to observe also the flag parade which is one very beautiful dance.

First Palio of Siena - July

June 29th

12:00 Assigning of the Horses to the Contrade

7:45 The first Test (Prova) June

June 30th

9:00 The Second Test

5:00 The Procession of the "Cero Votivo," Votive Candle

7:45 The Third Test

July 1st

9:00 The Fourth Test

7:45 The Test Generale

Dinner of The Test Generale afterwards

July 2nd

7:30 Mass of the Fantino in the Chapel of Piazza del Campo

9:00 Last Test, known as the "Testccia"

In the early afternoon, around 2:30, in the church of every contrada which participates in the Palio there is the Benediction of the Horses and of the Fantino

4:00 The Closing of Piazza del Campo begins

The only entrance way is at Via Dupre until 6:30 when the piazza is completely closed.

5:00 The beginning of the historic pageant

7:20 The race begins

After the Victory: Te deum of thanks in the Chiesa di piazza Provenzano



Piazza del Campo

Siena, Toscana


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Map of Palio of Siena


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