Palio di Siena is a horce race held twice a year in Siena, on July 2, known as Palio di Provenzano, dedicated to the Madonna of Provenzano, and on August 16, under the title Palio dell’Assunta, in honor of the Assumption of Virgin Mary.
Palio di Siena is an equestrian competition between the 17 contrade (districts) of the city, held in the beautiful Piazza del Campo. The race is preceded by the Corteo Storico, a parade of about 700 people dressed in medieval costumes.
Horse races in Siena were held since the 13th century, when the Palio was the closing event of the annual festival dedicated to the patron saint of the town, the Virgin Mary of the Assumption.
Initially, there were many contrade, but after the plague of 1347, their number was reduced to 42. A contrada was named after a street, a church or after an illustrious family residing on its territory.
In 1605, the Captain Sigismondo Santi and the Cavalier Fortunio Martini made a proposal to the Municipality of Siena, to held the competition in Piazza del Campo. As a result, at the beginning of the 17th century, the Palio was relocated in the famous shell-shaped square.
Palio dell’Assunta was introduced at the beginning of the 18th century, after an idea of the Contrada dell’Oca, winner of the Palio of July 1701. Contrada dell’Oca asked the Municipality to organize another race on August 16, for the holiday of the Assumption.
In 1729, Violante of Bavaria, the city’s governor, promulgated the New division of the boundaries of the Contrade, reducing the number of the contrade to seventeen.
PALIO DI PROVENZANO 2019, held in honour of the Madonna of Provenzano, will take place on July 2, with only 10 contrade out of a total of 17 – three drawn from last year’s participants and seven that were not present at the previous edition of the Palio di Provenzano.