Palio di Siena 2021 — See the traditional (Sienese) horse races
Piazza del Campo, Siena, ItalyStart Date: 02/07/2021End Date: 02/07/2021
The Traditional Palio In Siena
History is being witnessed in the 21st century at the feverous Palio di Siena, where around forty thousand passionate Sienese and visitors overwhelm the city streets to take part of the traditions, music, food, and the highlighted horse race that ignites everyone with the aflame desire to win.
History is being witnessed in the 21st century at the feverous Palio di Siena. Around forty thousand passionate Sienese and visitors overwhelm the city streets to take part of the traditions, music, food, and the highlighted horse race that ignites everyone with the aflame desire to win.
The second date for the Palio race is on August 16th, 2021.
The Palio di Siena is a magnificent event dating back to the 6th century. It stills keeps its roots displayed throughout the medieval town colors and emblems announcing the entrance to the different contrade (districts).
The ardent Palio competition among the contrade takes place at the Piazza del Campo on July 2nd, in honor of the Madonna of Provenzano, and August 16th, in honor of the Assumption of Mary.
The Palio di Siena is A must witness event for loves of authentic and euphoric experiences. Just know that the Palio rules have expanded throughout the centuries. Therefore, below you can find a brief description of the structure that will be useful to better enjoy the event:
The Palio di Siena Program
Event duration is 4 days including six trial runs and the main race happening the last day.
The 1st day is for the ‘tratta’ (drawing) for the lots and the horse assignment to the 10 contrade participating; around noon on June 29th and August 13th. Also, the 1st trial run happens this day in the afternoon.
The following two days host the 2nd-5th trial runs or heats. One in the morning around 8:40 am and one in the afternoon around 7:15 pm.
On the day of Palio you can be part of several traditional events full of majestic charm. Here is the schedule:
8:00 am with the ‘Messa del fantion’ (mass for the jockeys), following the 6th trial run, ‘provaccia’ (bad trial).
10:30 am the ‘segnature dei fantini’ (jockey assignment) gets officiated in front of the town Mayor.
3:00 pm each contrada officiates a blessing ceremony for their horse before they join the parade.
5:00 pm the civic parade starts. A must see with over 600 participants wearing traditional costumes parading along vibrant music at Piazza del Campo.
Around 7:00 pm, the sound of the firecracker signals the horses’ entrance to the Piazza del Campo. They line up at ‘Mossa’ (beginning line). The last horse enters at gallop to signal the beginning of the race, which consists of three laps around the ‘campo’ having to overcome dangerous sections and the 1st horse that crosses the finish line is the winner.
The winning contrada gets the ‘drappellone’ (large drape), a beautiful canvas painted by a different artist every year and displayed in the winning contrada museum.
you will never forget this unique opportunity to mingle with the local Sienese and witness the Palio di Siena that has been passionately staged for centuries transforming it in a true one of a kind experience.
Arrive around 4:30 pm to find a space in Piazza del Campo. If you prefer a closer look by the Mossa or the Gaia Fountain, you must arrive early morning.
2# No Public Toilets
Be aware there are no public toilets.
3# Protection Against Heat
Use protection against the sun as a hat, sunscreen, etc.
4# No Putting Children On Shoulders
If you have small children be aware that putting them on your shoulders will be considered arbitrary by people around wanting to watch the race.
What to Do?
The main event of the Palio Di Siena is held within the gorgeous Piazza del Campo. Over 40,000 spectators cram into the square to witness this epic race – it is a truly magnificent event.
The atmosphere is electric and the excitement and anticipation are palatable. If you want to attend the race itself, be sure to book in advance as tickets sell out quickly, especially for the main grandstand.
The city of Siena itself is a gem within the Tuscan region of Italy. It is renowned as one of the most beautiful historical cities in the country and its old town has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When visiting Siena for the Palio horse race, we strongly advise exploring the old town and checking out the following four attractions:
Piazza del Campo
Although the Campo is the main stage for the Palio Di Siena, the square itself is a beautiful location to visit.
When the race has finished and the stands have been dismantled, consider meandering through the square and admiring the gorgeous architecture. The Palazzo Pubblico takes centre stage with its ornate façade and immense Torre del Mangia.
Furthermore, other pieces of historical architecture such as the Museo Civico, the Fonte Gaia and the Palazzo Sansedoni are just as striking so don’t forget to take your camera!
Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta
Constructed in the 14th century, the Cathedral of Siena is renowned as one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the whole of Italy. This benevolent structure rivals the decoration and opulence of the Duomo in Florence.
The front façade is lavished with colourful mosaics and a myriad of ornate sculptures. Furthermore, the interior features a staggering amount of decoration such as the golden central dome, and the main altar covered in religious frescos. This really is an awe-inspiring building!
Climb the Torre del Mangia
If you have already visited the Piazza del Campo, you will have undoubtedly noticed the Torre del Mangia. This 102m tall tower dominates the skyline of Siena and stands as a wonder of Renaissance engineering.
It is possible to climb a series of winding stairs to reach a viewing platform within the tower; from here you are rewarded with panoramic views of the city and the marvellous Piazza below.
Enjoy a drink at the 115 Bar
The nightlife in Siena is a raucous affair during the Palio horse race. If you are looking for a quiet drink, however, we advise finding the well-known 115 bar.
This is a relatively low-key establishment and can be found on the Via dei Rossi, only a short distance from the Piazza del Campo. With a rustic décor, charming atmosphere and a great selection of drinks, there is no better place in the city to enjoy a night out.
Where to Stay?
Siena is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tuscany. Owing to this fact, the city has a grand selection of hotels and hostels. During the Palio di Siena races, hotel rooms fill up fast so we advise booking in advance to avoid disappointment.
Also, consider that prices will rise a little during these time periods, therefore, you may have to search harder for a bargain. To help your search, we have listed three fantastic accommodation choices all of which can be found on Booking.com:
Il Nido Del Mangia
Firstly we have the Il Nido Del Mangia which as the name suggests is just a mere 50 yards from the Torre del Mangia. Although at the high end of the budget, this deluxe apartment offers pure luxury and a location that can’t be beaten.
The rooms are decorated to a high standard and the kitchenette features modern appliances. Il Nido Del Mangia could serve as your home away from home during your stay in Siena!
Siena Gallery B&B
Secondly, we have the Siena Gallery B&B which offers a sleek and modern hotel at a bargain price. Located just 5 minutes from the Piazza del Campo on Via Banchi Di Sopra;
this bed and breakfast is an excellent choice. Breakfast includes a buffet selection together with various cooked options (all included in the price). Furthermore, all rooms are air-conditioned and have a flat-screen TV and private bathroom. For less than 70 euros per night, the Siena Gallery B&B is another fine selection.
La Casa di Antonella
Finally, we have La Casa di Antonella which is a well-received hotel that has consistently strong reviews. At less than 50 Euros per night, this is possibly one of the cheapest options in the city.
If you simply want a comfortable place to stay then Casa di Antonella is the perfect choice. The rooms are well maintained and contain everything you could need. This isn’t a luxury accommodation by any means, but it will serve as a fantastic base from which you can explore Siena.
Where to Eat?
So many options to choose from, nevertheless, if you have the opportunity join a Palio traditional open-air dinner held at each contrada before the main race.
It is a picture perfect scenario looking at the endless tables aligned along the districts’ main street, where you can enjoy homemade pizza, wine, crostini de fegato (chicken liver crostini) made with chicken liver, capers, sage leaves, anchovy fillets and butter, a Siena favorite and more delicious food.
Siena street food
In addition, you can stroll the towns’ streets were you will find a vast variety of restaurants with picturesque terraces to eat delicious traditional Italian meals including all kinds of pastas, calzones, and famous bruschetta. Not to forget the rich variety of local and national wines available throughout the city ensuring everyone will stay satisfied.
How to Get There?
Siena has three close airports Florence (FLR), Pisa (PSA), and Rome (FCO), serving many major international airlines and connecting the thousands of passengers arriving into the country.
If you arrive in Florence to Siena you have two bus options; rapida (rapid bus) non-stop taking 1 ¼ hours or the ordinaria (ordinary bus) with two stops taking about 1 ½ hours. Plus, these buses have the appropriate luggage storage and arrive at Piazza Gramsci close to the center.
If you prefer the train, there are two every hour; one straight taking 1 ½ hours and one with stops taking 1 ¾ hours. The train station is at the bottom of a steep hill in Siena so it’s recommended to catch the bus to take you close to Via Banchi di Sopra, which is just a small walk to Piazza del Campo.
A Bit of Palio di Siena history
Public races organized by the contrade started being popular in the 14th century and on, called ‘palii alla lunga,’ meaning the runs where crossing the whole city.
In 1590, the races started to be organized in the Piazza del Campo, which also included buffalo-back and donkey –backs races. The first modern ‘Palio’ called ‘Palio alla Tondato’ was organized in 1633.