Siena - Il Palio

Siena is a smaller and calmer place than Florence, with only a few hotels inside the city walls, thus especially calm during evening hours. Twice a year there is however a lot of excitement; the famous horse race around the Piazza del Campo, “Il Palio” takes place July 2 and August 16 each year. We were lucky to be close to Siena for the second date.

The city is split in 17 “contrades” (city wards). Ten of them are in each race represented by horses and riders – seven wards which did not participate in the previous one, plus three, randomly. The city is overall decorated by the flags and banners representing the different "contradas". Other kinds of events took place on the Piazza before the present form of “Il Palio” started here around 1650.

If you have not bought a seat on one of the stands surrounding the place or a place on a balcony – well in advance -, you have only the choice to stay in the middle of the Piazza and to be there some two or three hours before the race takes place. That's what we did. Some 50-60 thousand people assist. To prepare the track around the half-circle Piazza, a thick layer of earth is spread on the ground and mattresses are placed against the walls at the most dangerous corner, San Martino, the one I have especially focused on.

The race is preceded by a pageant, including musicians, flag wavers etc... – all dressed up in medieval costumes. The actual race (three tours of the Piazza in around a minute and a half) took place after about an hour of false departures. It started to get dark, making it even more difficult to take zoomed sharp photos. I did my best. After the race, the festivities start, especially of course in the winning “contrada”, Bruco.


EMNM said...

I´m the first!!!

Siena is one of my fav cities of Italy, is really nice.

Very nice pictures Peter!

Poor horses :(

Anonymous said...

Every country has many not so famous small places but these places look like equally attracting. Never visited these though have been to some others in Italy, like Genova.

Thanks for sharing. Pictures are as usual awesome.


HZDP said...

Peter, did you stand in the crowd? So many people there, this is crazy...but I just love your motion shot of the horses in the last pictures.

di.di said...

welcome back, Peter.. miss your blog so much!! hihihihi

well, did you place your bet?... im flying off to manila on wednesday.. so i catch up with you again somewhere next week ya.... have a great day!!

p/s: today is my offday since yesterday (sunday) was our National Day... and today is the first day of muslim fasting month too... what a great day to start fasting...

SusuPetal said...

Oh, such colorful photo! I like especially the one about the race. You've captured it well.

Busy day ahead, have a nice week, Peter!

Alain said...

Les chevaux sont impressionnants, il y en a même un sans cavalier (tombé je suppose). Tu ne nous dis pas qui a gagné.
Le pigeon qui boit entre les pattes du lion (?) semble sorti tout droit d'une fable de La Fontaine, avec ses congénères qui attendent leur tour.

Olivier said...

cette foule c'est impressionnant, à faire peur. (je préfère le café avec les 5/6 petits vieux ;o) )

"Emporter par la foule qui nous traine et nous entraine, écraser l'un contre l'autre nous ne formons qu'un seul corps et le flou sans effort nous pousse enchainé l'un et l'autre et nous laisse tout deux épanouis, ennivrés et heureux!
Entrainer par la foule qui s'élance et qui danse une folle farendole nos deux mains restent soudées et parfois soulevés nos deux corps enlacés s'envolent et retombe tout deux épanouis, ennivrés et heureux!"
Elle etait facile celle là ;o))

Ash said...

Wonderful images. I'm sure you had a great time in Italy!

Anonymous said...

Wow Peter you were lucky enough to be there for the Palio??? Gorgeous opportunity!!!

Did you know that Avignon and Siena are sister cities ? Had I known that you had taken these, I would have asked you for a photo for my sister city theme day post today!

Anonymous said...

Dans un autre registre, la photo du pigeon buvant à la fontaine est complètement géniale aussi !

Cergie said...

C'est dans les petites villes finalement que l'on sait le mieux s'amuser. Un tel événement est attendu et cela devient un événement MAJEUR.
Que de mouvement dans ces photos. Que de vie. Finalemnt ce sont deux petites photos d'un montage qui me parlent le plus : les 2 l'une à coté de l'autre ; le plan sur la foule + la foule et les deux plans d'immeubles
Il y a vraiment voir dans ces photos.

PeterParis said...

To anwer Alain's question: The winner is the one who is leading on the top photo (green/yellow rider) of the last tour (second on the lower photo - first tour), representing the contrada Bruco!

Anonymous said...

I have seen those horses running on television several times. I don't remember the details but the one I saw a riderless horse finished and won the race. I am not sure if it was recognized as the winner or not; and your photos are fantastic.

What did I think when I looked at the little girl in Japan all those years ago? Well, she had just held her tiny hand up and made the "V" sign Winston Churchill made famous for "Victory." I remember smiling at her as that was the first time she made any movement or sign that she would like to be friends. It was not that long after the War and she was probably conceived at the end of the War. It was a remarkable time and place to be.

marie6 said...

One can tell the horses are going really fast from your photos.

HZDP said...

Peter, for other Chinese blogs we've talked about, I know a shanghai Dailyphoto,
www.shanghaidilyphoto.com, hope you enjoy it as well, btw, thank you for your letter!

HZDP said...

http://www.shanghaidailyphoto.com/,why do I acting like her spokeswoman?? ha-ha

hpy said...

Je suis fatiguée rien qu'à penser à attendre debout pendant des heures que ça commence! Mais je pense aussi que ça vaut la peine de se fatiguer.

alice said...

Ces courses sont certainement très impressionnantes! J'ai aussi entendu dire que la ville était très belle au lever du jour, quand le soleil effleure les pierres qui prennent alors une teinte très particulière. Comment ça tu ne te lèves pas à 5h en vacances???

Thérèse said...

Pourtant cette course qui est une course éclair peut se terminer dans le drame comme en 2004.
Notre aîné en reparle souvent. La couleur des toits de Sienne contre le ciel sont inoubliables.
Pas trop dur le retour ?

alice said...

Dans un tout autre registre, je me suis permis de t'envoyer un e-mail.

Anonymous said...

Great. I think, the Italian cities as such are great, but even more with such events taking place.

PeterParis said...

Thanks for being the first!

Yes, Italy is definitely (also) a nice country!

Yes, I stood in the crowd (for some four or five hours)!

PeterParis said...


A nice week also to you!

J'ai déjà répondu à ta bonne question!

PeterParis said...

I understand that a horse without the rider can be declared winner, if still with all equipment (except the rider of course) on arrival.

Yes, it really goes fast (not easy to take a decent photo)!

I will check the Shanghai blog. Thanks!

PeterParis said...

Il ne faut pas avoir peur! Tu ne fais pas encore partie des vieux!

Yes, it WAS nice!

... and if I had known, I would have forwarded some photo in time!

PeterParis said...

Merci pour tes "critiques" positives!

A mon avis, ça valait la peine! (J'ai pensé à mon blog.)

La ville est belle aussi avec le soleil couchant!

PeterParis said...

J'ai entendu parler de la course de 2004. C'est sur que beaucoup de monde critique cette course, dangeruese pour les chevaux et pour les "jockeys"!

J'ai répondu.


Shammickite said...

Peter, so nice to see you back!
Siena... it looks so wonderful, so ancient! And what a wonderful tradition to see taking place before your very eyes! You are so lucky to have seen it all happen. Great photos too.

claude said...

Chaque année, à la télé, ils nous montrent cette course de chevaux dans les rues pavées de cette ville. Je ferme les yeux, car je n'aime pas voir tomber les chevaux !

Azer Mantessa said...

that zoomed sharp photo ... fantastically done.

Jo's-D-Eyes said...

Fantastic shots again Peter!
I can really imagine the races of the horses, they really are running fast wow!

WELCOME BACK in blogland:)
JoAnn's D Eyes/Holland

(PS maybe your dream can come true and make a boattrip once in Amsterdam? thats so great, you once HAVE to do that too....maybe an idea for your next trip?)

Anonymous said...

I can feel the energy, Peter! All those people and the speed of the horses. Great intensity.

Virginia said...

I feel as if I had a mini vacation today. You photos captured the the festivities with all the color, excitement and energy!

krystyna said...

Georgeous job!
Thank you so much, Peter!

PeterParis said...

Yes, we were lucky to be there on the right day!

C'est vrai... on a peur pour les chevaux! Il y eu des accidents graves.

It could have been better, but you need a bit of luck. It all goes very fast and you need long arms to be over the crowd.

PeterParis said...

Yes, maybe one day!

Thanks, that's what I felt and wanted to show!

My pleasure!

sonia a. mascaro said...

What a wonderful post of Tuscany, Peter! Your pictures expressed all the beauty of the city and the landscapes! You did a good job here.

Thanks for your nice comment on my Ecological Day's post. Would be great if you could join us next month.

Ming the Merciless said...

The last horse racing photo is excellent. Did you use PhotoShop to blur out the peripheral images to highlight the horses? If so, excellent job!

The flags are soooo colorful and the crowd is amazing.

Maxime said...

C'est beaucoup mieux que la F1 à MonteCarlo !

PeterParis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PeterParis said...

Thanks! I will think about next month!

Nothing blurred out or highlighted! (Just lucky?)

Je suppose. Il faudrait essayer Monaco l'anné prochaine!

Kate said...

Since Catherine of Siena is my "namesake", we visited the town and loved it. We weren't there for these festivities, but watched an English film company photographing in the square. Later read the book it was based on and saw the cable movie, but alas have forgotten the title. What a great time to visit!

Neva said...

You really get a lot of information about what you have done. Very impressive...you could be a history teacher!

Magda Machnicka said...

Oh, you really did attend it! I wish I were there, too, I plan to visit Siena during The Palio once. It looks spectacularly.