THE PALIO RACE IN SIENA (Italy)
The Palio race is a horse race in which competing horses and jockeys display the colours of the various districts (contrade) of the historical centre of Siena (Italy). The race is held in the square known as Piazza del Campo and consists of three laps around a clay covered track. The winning contrada receives a banner (the palio which gives the race its name) made of painted silk and executed by a local or internationally known artist. There are seventeen contrade: Aquila (eagle), Bruco (caterpillar), Chiocciola (snail), Civetta (owl), Drago (dragon), Giraffa (giraffe), Istrice (porcupine), Leocorno (unicorn), Lupa (she-wolf), Nicchio (seashell), Oca (goose), Onda (wave), Pantera (panther), Selva (woods), Tartuca (tortoise), Torre (tower) and Montone (ram). Each contrada has its own symbol, colours and territorial boundaries within the city centre. The Palio is run regularly twice a year, on 2 July and 16 August. Only ten of the contrade participate in the race; seven run "by right", having sat out the previous year's race, and three are chosen at random. Four days prior to the race, the morning is dedicated to the tratta, during which ten suitable horses for the race are selected out of twenty or thirty, and these are consequently assigned randomly to the contrade. The evening of the same day marks the beginning of the trial runs which take place daily at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. up until the race. Each contrada has a person (barbaresco) who looks after the horse during the Palio's time. The evening prior to the race a propitiatory dinner is held in each contrada, attended by their members, leaders, and jockeys. The day of the race, at approximately 3 p.m. the horses are blessed in the church of their contrada in the presence of contrada members dressed in historical costumes. These latter then take part in a procession in which the historical figures of standard bearers, dukes and drummer boys are evoked by their costumes. The procession culminates with the entrance of a medieval cart (the carroccio) bearing the banner into the square. Following the conclusion of the procession, the horses and jockeys appear at the main entrance of the town hall and proceed towards the starting line, known as the mossa. This fleeting race lasts for a few minutes of unbearable tension which make it without equal the world over.
To know more:
Reportage: 91 photos on CD-Rom