Siena for Palio

sienna siena travel blog

Week 117

Day 673

Noli, Italy

44.2061° N, 8.4133° E

One of the day trips a we took from our Tuscan Villa was to the beautiful medieval city of Siena.

Siena is a small city made up of 17 districts or neighborhoods.  Twice a year on July 2nd and August 16th, those neighborhoods compete in an epic horse race called Palio.  The race is run 2x a year because only 10 horses can run at once.  The 7 horses that don’t compete in July compete in Aug with 3 other districts picked at random.
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When we drove up on Sunday the 28th to go to church and walk around the town, we realized we could catch the first Provo (or trial run) if we came back the next day.
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The choice to come back was a no brainer as this is a pretty epic event to catch.
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To catch Palio some people buys tickets months ahead of time for the bleacher seats they bring in to line the outer rim of Piazza del Campo.  Tickets for the trial run as high as $200, but race day seats can sell upwards for $1000+ with rooms overlooking the Piazza going to for $10,000 a day!

It is possible to see the event for free though as the center ring is first come first serve.
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During the trial we went to, we were able to walk in at 6:45 and have an outer rim view for the 7:45 start. This gave us time to walk around the town and enjoy the energy of the city before making our way to the center of the Piazzo. We got a late lunch and enjoyed drinking wine in cafes listening to school girls sing songs cheering their district on.
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On the real race day, people camp out elbow to elbow from early morning on.  The gates close around 4 so you pay in sweat and perhaps a full bladder to catch this epic event.
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Given the logistics, I’m glad we saw the trial live and watched the real event on TV, but nonetheless being a part of this event is amazing!

The race itself takes less than 2 minutes but the buildup lasts hours.  The start alone took over 45 minutes to set up before the gun went off.  There is a very particular format the horses must be in for it to be a true start.  If the horses take too long to get into formation, a whistle is blown and everyone walks off the start line to calm their horse down before trying it again.
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To make the week long event more fun, my mom, dad, Tom, and I all picked separate teams and had fun trash talking all week.
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My dad picked Chivetta or Owl, my mom Tortuga the turtle, Tom Oca the goose, and I was Onda the wave.  None of us won on race day, but Onda did some in 2nd! 💗✌
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Where do you like to see a sporting event, live and in person or from the comfort of your own couch?

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