Palio di Siena is a horse race between the 17 contrade (districts) of Siena, held twice a year in Piazza del Campo, the main square of the city. The Palio from July 2 is called Palio di Provenzano and it’s held in honor of the Madonna of Provenzano, and the one held on August 16 is called Palio dell’Assunta, and is dedicated to the Assumption of Virgin Mary.
The race is preceded by Corteo Storico, a historical parade which includes about 700 participants representing the 17 contrade and the institutions of the ancient Republic of Siena. In the afternoon, the procession starts from Piazza del Duomo and, after parading on the streets of the historical center of the town, arrives on the beautiful shell-shaped square Piazza del Campo. The actual race consists in circling three times the Piazza del Campo.
A contrada bears the name of a street, a church or of an illustrious family residing on its territory. The 17 contrade of Siena still competing today in the Palio are Aquila (Eagle), Bruco (Caterpillar), Chiocciola (Snail), Civetta (Little Owl), Drago (Dragon), Giraffa (Giraffe), Istrice (Crested Porcupine), Leocorno (Unicorn), Lupa (She-Wolf), Nicchio (Seashell), Oca (Goose), Onda (Wave), Pantera (Panther), Selva (Forest), Tartuca (Tortoise), Torre (Tower) and Valdimontone (Valley of the Ram).
PALIO DELL’ASSUNTA 2019, held in honour of the Assumption of Saint Mary, will take place on August 16. Only 10 teams out of a total of 17 will participate in the race. The number of the participating contrade is composed from seven that were not present at the previous edition of the Palio dell’Assunta and three drawn from last year’s participants.
The 10 contrade participate in the Palio with a horse assigned by drawing from the horses physically fit for the race. Eligibility tests and the assignment of the horses take place 3 days before the Palio, on August 13. Before the Palio, there are 6 test races, during which the jockey gets familiar with the horse.