Behind the Palio - Awesome Experiences

Call us today on

0208 251 0425

Behind the Palio

There’s much more to the world’s most famous horse race than a two-minute adrenaline rush in the city square. The race exists as a battle between the 17 contrade (districts) of the city, set up to supply troops during Sienna’s fight to maintain independence from nearby Florence. Named after everything from eagles to snails and little owls, each district has a vibrant history – Civetta (Little Owl) district was known as ‘nonna’ for 30 years because it failed to win a race in all that time (don’t worry: it was victorious in 2014).

Each area has a traditional profession, from shoemakers to bankers, and each celebrates with a festive dinner in the city streets in the run-up to the race. We offer a trip to one of these dinners as an optional extra on our Palio di Siena experience, and highly recommend it. These feasts are gigantic family affairs packed with chatter, music and fine food and held in candlelit squares. Visit one, and you can easily envisage how this race was 200 years ago – not much has changed! Fun fact: 2019’s August race won by La Selva (the woods) despite the fact that the rider had fallen – the rules don’t require a jockey for a win!

ACCEPT COOKIESTo give you the best possible experience, this site uses cookies. Using this site means you agree to our use of cookies. We have published a cookies policy, which you should read to find out more about the cookies we use. View cookies policy.