Il Palio

Twice each year, Siena hosts the the oldest horse race in Italy. It has been held almost uninterruptedly since 1644 and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. 10 mixed-breed horses and their saddle-less riders compete for the honour of their respective districts in the Palio. It lasts 90 seconds, three times around, but generates feuds that continue for decades. The first horse that crosses the finish line, even if it arrives without his jockey, wins the race. Four days before the race the town gathers for the “Tratta”, or the drawing of the lots and assignment of the horses to each of the Contrade. Therefore, each of the Contrade picks their jockey but not the horse, they are drawn and only known at this time. Corruption is commonplace, prompting the residents of each Contrada, Contradaioli, to keep a close watch on their stable and their rider. The Palio di Siena is more than a simple horse race. It is the culmination of ongoing rivalry and competition between the Contrade.