Every year two traditional horse’s races take place at Piazza del Campo. Due to the numerous visitors during the Palio days and the high demand for accommodations it is recommended to check hotel rates and book rooms well in advance.
The first is held on the 2nd of July – the holiday of the Madonna of Provenzano and is called Palio di Provenzano or Palio delle Madonna. The second is held on the 16th of August – the holiday of Virgin Mary and is called Palio dell’Assunta or as most of the people name it – Palio delle contrade.
Competitors from the 17 quarters of the city participate in a colorful race. As in the competition only 10 riders can participate, and as all the 17 quarters want to participate, a lottery chooses three winning quarters that will participate twice.
Hence, in every race 10 representatives will participate. The contest last up to 90 seconds. The contesters that ride without a saddle are required to encircle the Piazza del Campo three times. The faster rider wines the Palio which is, according to the tradition, piece of cloth that symbols the victory. The wining quarter honors the rider. The preparation for the contest, that entertains thousands of guests, is part of ancient tradition.
A day before the contest, the horse is brought into the quarter’s church in order to get the Madonna’s blessing. On the next day, it is ready with his rider who wears traditional cloths to the prestigious contest.
The Piazza del Campo is decorated with flags of the 17 quarters. The thousands of visitors that fill the piazza create enjoyable and competitive atmosphere.