Siena is definitely a well-known location and touristic spot; its culture, architecture, and food are famous throughout both Italy and Europe. I would like to tell you about Its most famous tradition, Palio di Siena, and some of its strange and hard-to-believe characteristics.
In case you have no knowledge whatsoever of “Il Palio” here are some basic infos: this horse-race takes place twice per year (2nd of July and 16th of August) in the stunning central square of the city, Piazza del Campo, from 1656. There are ten participants (horse and jockey) representing the neighbourhoods (Contrade) of the town. The horse which leads the way after three laps is the winner.
Il Palio, though, is not just a race or a celebration that last a day or two; for who lives in the neighbourhoods (Contradaioli) in Siena the race days are just the tip of a year-long preparation and anticipation. Becoming a Contradaiolo is not a piece of cake; if you are not born in the Contrada you have just two ways to become one: either you have/had a relative who was a member of it or you need to spend time in the Contrada and with Contradaioli until you are “accepted” and baptize (in an actual church!).
Being such an ancient tradition there have been many moments worth to share as in 1945 when, to celebrate the end of the War, a special “Peace Palio” was set up that unfortunately became famous for the biggest fight the Palio ever saw!
Weird Fact: The day of the race each horse is blessed in the Contrada’s Church by the priest with Holy Water, telling him to “come back victorious”.
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