A time honored tradition, Il Palio dates back to the 17th Century, when each of the 17 Contrade, or districts of Siena, were in fierce economic and social competition with one another. Today, though the official function of the Contrada has diminished, each neighborhood remains a closely-knit community, and naturally they are proudly represented and devotedly supported in the historic race around Siena’s main square, Piazza del Campo. Adorned in the customary colors of their respective Contrade, the riders frantically circle the Piazza three times before a winner is ultimately declared. The victor’s Contrada is awarded Il Palio, a banner that serves as a trophy, and a jubilant celebration ensues.
The next leg of Il Palio, Palio dell’Assunta will take place on August 16. Though each actual race lasts less than two minutes, the ceremony, and the spectacle that accompanies Il Palio makes the entire summer a wonderful time to take in the old-world splendor of one of Italy’s most impressive medieval cities. Visit in July to cheer on Il Bruco (Caterpillar), La Lupa (She-Wolf), or Il Montone (Ram) and experience the wonder of Siena for yourself as part of Tuscan Hill Towns by Bike vacation.