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Not just one of the hotels in Siena, Italy


Surely, it is one of the reasons why Siena is famous all over the world: in the end the Palio is a horse race, like many others in Italian cities. Actually, the reason why it really is famous is not the race itself but the passion and the enthusiasm the Sienese people put in this centennial tradition.

History of the Sienese Palio

The first modern Palio ridden in Siena was in 1656, and from that moment on it has remained almost the same. Maybe the only thing that really has changed is the fact that now it is so famous world-wide and possibly, year after year the enthusiasm and the proud of Sienese people have raised.

The horse race of the Palio of Siena is held twice a year, on the 2nd of July and on the 16th of August and the award is a tapestry painted everytime by a different artist.

The contrade (wards) of Siena

The city is divided into 17 district (or “contrade”, as they are called in Italian) that confront during those races.

Names and flag of the contrade

Map of Siena with wards’ territories

Archivio di Stato di Siena - Balìa, 231, c.78
G.Silvestri. Pianta Topografica della città di Siena, con l'indicazione delle 17 Contrade, compilata nel settembre 1849

Each contrada has its own anthem and the flag’s colors and symbols are recalled inside the ward’s territory by fountains in little architectural details, that an attentive person would notice.
For example, walking from the Hotel to Piazza del Campo you’ll be going through the Nicchio (seashell) and Leocorno (unicorn) contradas.

The days before the Palio

During the days before the ride the air inside the city walls is electrifying: the members of the contradas are always very busy with the preparations and like to spend most of their time together, getting ready for the big day.
As in the best Italian tradition these preparations always involve eating and drinking together, and the most important moment of this kind is the “Cena della prova generale” (Dinner of the trial run), that takes place the night before the race. During this dinner you make toast, secret (more or less) deals and give words of encouragement.

The corteo storico: approaching the race by recalling the old-times’ splendor

The race in the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, is just a part of the event.

Before it starts there’s a big parade, called “corteo storico” formally commemorating institutions, customs, glory and the greatness of the ancient Republic of Siena.

Being part of the parade is a great honour and all those participating wear fine clothes inspired to the fashion of the XVII century.
The corteo storico passes through the main streets of the historical centre stopping in front of the Duomo (the Cathedral of Siena) and finishing in Piazza del Campo, where the race takes place.

The horse race

The horse race itself, normally doesn’t last long, but the preparations and the thrilling filling the air during the moments before the start and the joy and despair (of those losing, of course) is something absolutely unique.

Imagine a whole square full of people yet silent.

If you want to book your stay during the Palio season, we suggest you to check the availability of the hotel long in advance




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