The Famous Horse Race of Siena

It takes 90 seconds for the horses to run three laps in the Palio horse race in Siena. But it takes weeks of preparation and parties to get there.  “il Palio” is held twice a year: July 2 and August 16; both are celebrations around the Virgin Mary.

Image from above of the race course, crowd and the clam-shell-shaped Campo Square.

Ten horses are drawn by lottery to run for 10 of the 17 neighborhoods, or contrade, in Siena. Truckloads of dirt are placed around the edges of the main town square, il Campo, to create a racetrack. As the race nears, 10 jockeys also are drawn by lottery for the bare-back competition. Practice races are run, parades and pageantry are held, and then things get serious.

Banner for the August Palio in 1750.

Betting, bribing and strategy dominate the days leading up to the important race. The winning jockey could earn a nice wage. The winning horse is revered. In fact, a horse without a jockey can win, which happened recently at the Oct 20 “Extraordinary Palio.” And most important: the winning contrada earns bragging rights. The victorious neighborhood gets to fly their flag throughout their streets – and party like rock stars until the next race is run and a new winner takes over.

Bleachers fill up and crowds of people line the streets. Attendees flock to the center of the Campo Square to be in the middle of the excitement and be ready to celebrate the winner. But once inside, the square is sealed off; they stand, wait, watch, revel – for hours. You don’t eat, drink or have access to facilities.

Inside the normally quiet Campo Square. Great hang-out spot to sit, picnic, catch up with friends.

However; there are more comfortable options available to watch the race, like private balconies – and I’d like to take a small group for this experience. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event!

Through my friend in Siena, I have balcony seats reserved for the August race. We’ll have a buffet, beverages and – most luxurious – a private bathroom.

I am taking reservations now for this trip Aug 11-21, 2019, where we’ll watch the race on Aug. 16. In addition to this memorable and rare spectacle, we’ll also have a full cultural experience: visit Tuscan wineries, enjoy a cooking lesson and traditional meals, take private tours, stay in a countryside villa and more.

There are only 8 spots available (four left as of 11/5/18) for this exclusive tour, so please let me know ASAP if you’d like to join the adventure.

Other trips in 2019 include:

  • May:
  • August:
    • Siena for the horse race! (Aug 11 – 21) 4 spots left
    • Orvieto, Umbria and Positano, Amalfi Coast (Aug 22 – Sept 1)
  • October:

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