Eagle. She-Wolf. Panther. They’re not just team mascots, they’re the names of some of Siena’s 17 historic wards, called contrade. The contrade date to the Middle Ages, when the city was districted to provide troops for its defense. Now, each contrade provides riders to compete in the famous Palio horse races. With lore reflecting the original trades of the neighborhood, each contrade has its own banner, coat of arms, motto, museum, and ceremonial font where you must be baptized to be considered a true contradiolo. There are historic alliances and rivalries, and epic street celebrations that give new meaning to the phrase “block party.”
Every summer, Il Palio draws thousands of spectators to the small town of Siena to cheer on their favored contrade in two of Italy’s most time-honored races. The races occur on July 2, and August 16. However, 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. Join in on the party when you visit Siena during VBT’s Tuscan Hill Towns by Bike vacation.