To Go or Not To Go: The Palio Horse Race

A picture of the Palio horse race in Siena Italy.To Go or Not To Go:  The Palio.  If you are not familiar with The Palio, it is a horse race that takes place in Sienna twice during the summer, once in July and once in August.  During this time Sienna is overwrought with tourists who come solely for the Palio, it is a big event by all means.  The city is divided into sections (Contradas) and ten of these Contradas are represented at the Palio, each with its own coat of arms and following of fans.  Obviously, the emotions run high as the winner of the Palio is winning not just for himself but for his turf.  On the plus side, is the emotion and pageantry that encompasses the festivities.  The city is full of life and tension as each region prepares for the race.  During the days leading up to the actual Palio race are the trials which you can read about on the link below.  Though the actual race only last a short time, like any race it is a nail bitter, and if you are like me you will pick a horse to win (though in my case it wasn’t actually a winner).

So what is there to think about, it sounds like an event to see and I would agree as long as you know the downside.  If you are visiting Sienna to leisurely explore the sites and enjoy good food, scheduling this during The Palio is not recommended.  The streets are packed and everything requires a wait.  The food at the restaurants is subpar and you will be rushed through your meal so they can serve as many patrons as possible.  Finally, getting a spot at the track requires either a lot of money or time; in my case it was time.  Like many, or most, I had a spot standing in the middle of the track and this didn’t come easy, it required getting there early and standing for hours (in the sun) waiting for the race to begin.  My promptness paid off as I had a spot right at the rail and could hear the thunder of the horses as they raced by.  It is not for the faint of heart or those with limited time.  My suggestion is go to Sienna during The Palio if the reason for the visit is strictly to see the race, otherwise book your trip before or after.

For more information on The Palio and its history visit: http://www.ilpalio.org/palioenglish.htm


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