One of the most important events in Siena and in Italy as a whole, the Palio di Siena draws fans from across the world to witness a celebration of culture, art, history and folklore in the heart of Tuscany. This renowned spectacle is held in Siena’s Piazza del Campo twice a year, on July 2nd and August 16th, to celebrate the Madonna di Provenzano and Madonna dell’Assunta, the protectors of Siena.
On the morning of the Palio race, you'll be picked up at the Santa Maria Novella station in Florence and taken to Siena by air-conditioned coach or minivan, depending on the size of your group. Savor the excitement of this unique experience on the 1.5-hour drive, arriving in Siena around 1:45pm.
Meet your guide and take a walking tour of the historical center of the city. During this 2-hour tour, you’ll learn about the origins of the Palio races, which developed into a popular spectator sport after bullfighting was outlawed in 1590, eventually becoming a beloved tradition.
There are many remarkable moments during the days of the Palio; in addition to the race itself, the ones that are especially salient come immediately before the race, which you’ll get to take part in. Attend the ‘Blessing of the Horse’ ceremony, a sacred rite that takes place inside various churches of the 17 contrade, or city districts. During this parade, the costumed horses and riders – all with their eye on the victorious Palio banner – are blessed before the start of the race with the priest’s famous words: “Go, and come back the winner!”
Follow the horses into Piazza del Campo for the main Palio race, where a crowd of prideful contradaioli (citizens of each contrada) and tourists await. You’ll watch the spectacle right from the center of the piazza.
Soak up the festive, electric atmosphere among the crowd of excited fans as the jockeys make a short dash around the plaza toward the finish line. A thunderous applause from the audience congratulates the winner, and the victory brings good luck and pride to the winning contrada, which will surely be celebrated all year long.
At the end of the Palio festivities, meet with your group and head to a restaurant within Piazza del Campo, where you’ll sit down to enjoy a lovely 3-course dinner with wine or beer. After your relaxing meal, your guide will escort you back to the vehicle for the drive back to Florence, arriving around midnight.