Palio is a unique event which takes place every year on July 2 and August 16 in Siena, Italy.
It has strong ties with Siena and its daily life; it even has its own “slang” and rules. Below you will find some fun facts about Palio.
- Not just 2 days: every Sienese who belongs to a contrada thinks that Palio is “every day and all year round”. Thus, those who join their contrada just for Palio are called “Quattrogiornisti”, meaning that they only care about the race four days a year.
- The horse can win even without its jockey: if the jockey falls from his horse but the latter arrives first, it is still considered a victory for the contrada. It has already happened 23 times in the past and when it happens, the situation is called “Cavallo (horse) scosso”.
- He must not see the race: it is forbidden for the person called “Mossiere” to see the Palio. After calling the horses and lining them up at the starting line he leaves the square.
- A privileged spot: the person who rings the bell of the Mangia Tower gets to see the race from its clock, not missing any details.
- Siena’s next Grandma: the term “Nonna” (grandma) refers to the contrada which hasn’t won the Palio for the longest period of time in comparison to the others.
- Impartiality: Sienese people who work for the local administration cannot root for any contrada.
- Drappellone: it is called “Drappellone” the prize won by the winner; it’s also called “Cencio”. Every year it is commissioned to local and international artists.
- Fines and bans: Throughout the centuries, many contradas were banned from Palio. For example Bruco was banned after the 1945 Palio, because they tore the Drappellone won by Drago. Many jockeys were banned because they stood in the way of others before and during the race. However, the heaviest fine of all time was the one endured by Franco Casu and Maurizio Farnetani: they were banned 20 times from the race in 1996 and in 1997.
- Protesting: in 1855 a jockey named Gobbo Saragiolo decided to withdraw from the race beacuse he felt they didn’t pay him enough. While he was near San Martino he ran away on his horse.
- The horse needs its blessings: in the afternoon of the day of Palio, every horse is blessed by the priest who says “Go and come back as the winner”.
You should see the Palio at least once in your life. Hotel Borgo Grondaie is just 1,5km far from the city center. It offers both rooms and apartments and a spacious parking lot. If you are planning on coming to Siena to see the Palio we advise you book your rooms in advance because hotels are generally full during those days. See you soon!