Federico Fellini used to say when talking about the Palio:
“You in Siena have this precious thing, and it is singular how in the conflict of the Contrade there is your union. The whole world falls apart and you are here with the vividness of these rites and with fidelity to the centuries. I think it is the only example in Italy. There is a kind of mysterious cordon between you and the Sienese of all ages.”
Fellini was neither the first nor the last to be fascinated by this event that represents the soul of the city.
Living in Siena also means trying to experience the Palio in the best way possible: it is useless to ask questions when the answers, for centuries, have not been there. Since they put tuff in the square, there is a fascinating atmosphere of mystery and excitement. The city comes to life. The student who throughout the year experiences Siena suddenly finds himself in another reality: the atmosphere changes, the faces are different, the contradaioli wear the kerchief that identifies them in their contrada, entire generations speak of nothing but horses and jockeys, and the city stands still. The tourist, in just a few days, cannot perceive the new identity the city takes on. The student cannot do without it.
Suddenly we are all spectators of a magical event, crowds in the Piazza del Campo during the palio that sees its roots in centuries of history and its future in maintaining its traditions at all costs. The present is within the quiver of every contradaiolo’s heart at the moment when, in absolute silence, the 10 horses enter from the Entrone and go to the canape ready to depart.
Reason is lost during the three laps of the square and gives way to shouts or tears after the firing of the mortar, signaling the end of the race. Slowly the square empties out, and the spectator, who must perforce respect the frenetic and incomprehensible rhythms of this event, has no choice but to keep quiet (never speak out of turn or indulge in sarcastic remarks) and watch the celebrations of the contrada that won the Palio.
Soon the joyful atmosphere of sweet madness will envelop him as well. In the evening, it will be a must to go to the museum and church of the victorious contrada to drink wine and participate in the exultation of the only winner of the Palio, the painted cloth banner for which people have been weeping, laughing and passionate for centuries and for centuries to come.
To experience the palio at its best
The palio of Siena is a historical performance that began in 1633; it has different rhythms from those of today, and it is appropriate to know them in order to best appreciate this event. Here is an in-depth look at the rhythms of the palio, the moments not to be missed.
Knowing the secrets of the Palio di Siena is very important, both to amaze your fellow “adventurers” and to understand every nuance. Here are some interesting facts about Siena’s most famous event:
- The palio is not a tourist event: “…It is the life of the Sienese people over time and in its various aspects and feelings.”
- It’s the horse that wins: The winner is always and in any case the horse, which can arrive at the finish line even “shaken,” that is, without a jockey.
- The Mossiere does not attend the Palio: he leaves Piazza del Campo and never witnesses the unfolding of the Carriera until the end.
- La Nonna: it is the Contrada on which the “Cuff” rests, in short, the one that has not won the palio for the longest time.
- Victory Dinner: held between September and early October, it is attended by the districts and of course, the winning horse.
These are just some of the curiosities we found, we recommend that you delve deeper with this article all the curiosities of the Palio of Siena.
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