← Back to all posts


Posted on Tuesday, July 8th, 2008 by Mike Manchester

I briefly mentioned Siena’s famous “Palio” horse race week that takes place twice a year on July 2nd and August 16th. It is one of the world’s most unique events as its origins date back 800 years. For those of you who don’t know about “Il Palio” here’s a VERY abbreviated synopsis:

The city of Siena is divided into 17 different neighborhoods called “contradas.”. Each contrada is represented by an animal and specific colors. The flag in the picture is the flag that represented this year’s July 2nd race. The people of Siena are baptized at birth into their contrada and each year hope that their horse wins the race so that they earn the right to be the pride of the town.

Our students got an insider’s look at the world of “Il Palio” and how it turns during the 4 days of events and rituals that lead up to the actual race. Lavinia’s husband, Antonio was born into the “Nicchio” or shell contrada and he took us to the dinner the night before the race. There were 1800 people at dinner sitting on tables on the streets of the neighborhood! What’s even more amazing is that all of the contradas have huge dinners the night before at the same time! All of Siena’s streets were closed to cars and covered with tables and hopeful revelers.

After a long night, and a long day in the sun, the race finally started. Incredibly, after days of anticipation, the actual event lasts about two minutes as the horses make their way around the Piazza Del Campo three times at breakneck speeds. Having eaten with the “Nicchio” we were hopeful for them, but in the end it was the “Istrice,” (the porcupine) that came across the line first.

I Also mentioned last week that we here at SIS were extremely proud to provide one of our students as the official translator for the Misericordia emergency center in the Piazza Del Campo. Courtney got wonderful reviews from the doctors working with her.

To all who haven’t witnessed “Il Palio” it is one of those rare things that cannot be explained, but must be lived. I encourage everyone to see it at least once in their lifetime.

Posted in SIS News, Uncategorized


  1. September 9th, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Nate said

    I have lived the Palio! In fact, I lived one just recently.

← Back to all posts