One of our planned trips for this year is to Tuscany where we will spend a few days in Siena before we cruise the Mediterranean. I've been doing a little exploring on the internet to see what we might want to take a look at while we are there. I discovered that there is a horse race that is run twice a year that is quite historical wrapped in lots of tradition and custom.
The event takes place on August 2 and July 16. The center of the city, the Piazza del Campo, is prepared by spreading a tuff clay on the ring around the main square. The city is divided into 17 contrade, 10 of which participate in any given race. Around the city you can see which section belongs to which contrade because there are signs with the emblems and colors that signify the contrade on various signs: eagle, she-wolf, snail, goose, etc.
The Palio takes place over a four day period with the ultimate race being run on the last day. The prize is called Drappellone or drape. It is a large canvas painted by a local artist each year and is hung in the museum of the contrada that wins.
The course can be treacherous and some horses have crashed into a barrier or each other at particularly difficult point. No matter if the horse has a rider or not (did I mention they ride bareback?),the first to cross the finish line wins.
With all the energy and passion of the Italians, this must be quite an event to experience. Unfortunately our dates do not fall when either race is run but I'm sure we will see all kinds of evidence of the event and hear all sorts of tales.