The Palio di Siena is probably the most famous event of the whole area around San Gimignano and certainly known all over the world. This particular race is held twice a year: July 2, in honor of the Madonna of Provenzano and August 16 for the Lady of the Assumption. In a few days, then, the Piazza del Campo will fill to attend one of the most anticipated events of the month.
The history of the Palio di Siena
The race takes its name from the trophy that is awarded to the winner or the Palio that is a kind of drape that symbolizes the victory. The origin of this race is very old: the first embryo could be traced back to the Battle of Montaperti in 1260 but its tradition took root later during the years mingling with other local initiative.
The Palio as we know it today had its origin at the end of the ‘500 while it was only in 1656 that the City undertook to organize this major event citizen. At the time, however, it ran only the Palio on July 2, while the one on August 16 was added only starting from 1701.
The city of Siena has 17 contrades divided on a geographical basis within the city but only 10 of them run the Palio each year. They are always the 7 which were excluded the previous year and the other 3 decided by drawing lots. This year, the Palio of the Assumption, will see participate the following contrades: Dragon, Giraffe, Panther, Owl, Ram, Unicorn, Eagle, Caterpillar, Snail and Selva.
The Contrada with the most total wins is the Goose that has 65 total victories while bringing up the rear is the Eagle with only 24 wins. The last Palio of July 2, 2014 was won by the contrada of the Dragon and the last Palio of the Assumption was conquered by the Wave.
In addition to the other players in the incredible horse race in Piazza del Campo are the jockeys. Some of them have become real public figures: among the most recent we can recall Andrea Degortes, aka “Vinegar“, winning 14 times from 1965 to 1992.
The Palio of the Assumption will run August 16 at 19, the whole square will be closed even in the days before: on august 14 to 16 will be held the morning test and on the 14 and 15 will be held the afternoon ones. The Palio will also broadcast live on television, on Rai 2, starting at 19.
If you then decide to extend the visit and immerse yourself in the history and the magic of San Gimignano, the historical atmosphere of the Hotel L’Antico Pozzo is the ideal setting for an emotion that continues among the ancient towers.