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Fascinating history and traditions for a unique and exciting event

Dating back to the Middle Ages, the Palio di Siena, or simply the Palio, is one of the world’s most famous horse races held twice a year in Siena, Tuscany, on July 2nd and August 16th.

For this occasion, Piazza del Campo’s perimeter turns into a dirt track where 10 horses and riders, each representing one of Siena's contrade, compete, with hundreds of people watching the event evolve around them from the middle of the square. The race itself lasts only about 90 seconds, during which the riders, dressed in their contrade colours, race bareback around the track three times. The winning contrada is awarded a silk banner, known as the Palio, which is painted by a different artist each year. The race is broadcast live on television and is watched by millions of people around the world. Over the years, the Palio has caught international cinema’s attention as well, with one of the most iconic scenes in the James Bond film franchise, "Quantum of Solace" released in 2008, shot during the event.

The Palio is more than just a horse race, it is a cultural and historical event that brings the city of Siena to life, with parades, feasts, and celebrations leading up to the race. The Palio has become a symbol of Senese identity and is deeply rooted in the city's history and traditions. Belonging to one of the 17 contrade in Siena means being part of a community. Each contrada is like a neighbourhood or district within the city, and members of a contrada are known as contradaioli, each one has its own church, museum, and community center, and they are all deeply involved in the Palio di Siena, which is a source of pride and identity. The contrade take the race very seriously, and each one has its own colours, symbols and rituals.

The Palio is a unique event that attracts locals and visitors from all over the world who come to witness this centuries-old event. Essenza can organise an unforgettable experience to savour this event at its best. We can arrange watching the Palio di Siena from one of the 13th century palaces around Piazza del Campo for a one-of-a-kind experience, granting a bird's eye view of the entire square and an intimate setting to avoid the crowds. Watching the Palio from a palace is also a nod to tradition, as many of these buildings have been used to watch the race for centuries by nobility. To enhance the experience, local food and wines, expertly paired by a sommelier, will be offered to guests and an art historian guide will share the rich cultural heritage and history of the Palio di Siena.

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