The Palio di Siena (Italian pronunciation: [ˈpaːljo di ˈsjɛːna]; known locally simply as Il Palio; from Latin pallium) is a horse race held twice each year, on 2 July and 16 August, in Siena, Italy. Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards. The Palio held on 2 July is named Palio di Provenzano, in honour of the Madonna of Provenzano, a Marian devotion particular to Siena which developed around an icon from the Terzo Camollia area of the city. The Palio held on 16 August is named Palio dell'Assunta, in honour of the Assumption of Mary.

Sometimes, in case of exceptional events or local or national anniversa...Read more

The Palio di Siena (Italian pronunciation: [ˈpaːljo di ˈsjɛːna]; known locally simply as Il Palio; from Latin pallium) is a horse race held twice each year, on 2 July and 16 August, in Siena, Italy. Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards. The Palio held on 2 July is named Palio di Provenzano, in honour of the Madonna of Provenzano, a Marian devotion particular to Siena which developed around an icon from the Terzo Camollia area of the city. The Palio held on 16 August is named Palio dell'Assunta, in honour of the Assumption of Mary.

Sometimes, in case of exceptional events or local or national anniversaries deemed relevant and pertinent ones, the city community may decide for an extraordinary Palio, run between May and September, such as on 9 September 2000, to celebrate the city entering the new millennium and on 20 October 2018, in commemoration of the centenary of the end of the Great War.

The Corteo Storico, a pageant to the sound of the March of the Palio, precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world.

The race itself, in which the jockeys ride bareback, circles the Piazza del Campo, on which a thick layer of earth has been laid. The race is run for three laps of the piazza and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is common for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and indeed, it is not unusual to see riderless horses finishing the race. A horse is not required to have a rider to win the race.

Origins

The earliest known antecedents of the race are medieval. The town's central piazza was the site of public games, largely combative: pugna, a sort of many-sided boxing match or brawl; jousting; and in the 16th century, bullfights. Public races organized by the contrade were popular from the 14th century onwards; called palii alla lunga [it], they were run across the whole city.

When the Grand Duke of Tuscany outlawed bullfighting in 1590, the contrade took to organizing races in the Piazza del Campo. The first such races were on buffalo-back and called bufalate; asinate, races on donkey-back, later took their place, while horse racing continued elsewhere. The first modern Palio (called palio alla tonda to distinguish it from the earlier palio alla lunga) took place in 1633.[1]

A second Palio in August

At first, one race was held each year, on 2 July. A second, on 16 August, was added from 1701, though initially, the August race was run intermittently rather than every year. The August race (il palio dell'Assunta), which coincided with the Feast of the Assumption, was probably introduced "spontaneously" as part of the feasting and celebration associated with this important festival. The date 16 August was presumably chosen because the other days of the mid-August canonical festival, the 14th and 15th of the month, were already taken up respectively by the Corteo dei Ceri (Procession of the Ceri) and by the census.

The August Palio started out as an extension of the celebrations of the July Palio and was organized and funded by July's winning contrada, though only if the contrada in question could afford it. After 1802, however, organisation and funding the August race became a central responsibility of the city, which removed annual uncertainty over whether or not an August Palio would run. It has been held at least since 15 August 1581 when 15-year-old jockey Virginia Tacci was the first female to ride a steed in the race.[2]

Restriction

In 1729, the city's Munich-born governor, Violante of Bavaria, defined formal boundaries for the contrade, at the same time imposing several mergers so that the number of Sienese contrade was reduced to seventeen. This was also the year of the decree restricting to ten the number of contrade that could participate in a Palio; the restriction, which remains in force, resulted from the number and extent of accidents experienced in the preceding races.

^ "The Palio Horse Race - All the victories at the Palio di Siena from 1633 to 1691". Ilpalio.org. Retrieved 15 September 2016. ^ "Le donne del Palio di Siena - Virginia Tacci, la prima donna che corse il Palio di Siena nel 1581". www.ilpalio.org. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
Photographies by:
Enrico from Rome, Italy - CC BY 2.0
Mirco - CC BY-SA 2.0
Paola smaniotto - CC BY-SA 4.0
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