Fierce horse racing and a festive atmosphere will take over Siena today as the second Palio race of the year is held in the Tuscan city (the first is on July 2).
Ten riders on their horses, riding bareback and dressed in the colors of the contrada (city ward) they represent, will circle Piazza del Campo three times. The race itself doesn’t usually last more than 90 seconds. It is not uncommon for some of the riders to fall off their horses, although the race still continues; the first horse to reach the finish line, with or without its jockey, wins.
The race is preceded by a spectacular pageant, the Corteo Storico, which includes alfieri (flag wavers) in medieval costumes.
The Palio held today is named Palio of the Assumption, in honor of the Virgin’s Mary assumption.
The Palio di Siena, which in its modern form took place the first time in 1656, is not just a horse race; rather, it is the culmination of ongoing rivalry between the contrade, which compete with great passion and pride. There are 17 contrade in Siena, but only ten participate in each race: the seven that did not participate in the previous year's Palio and three chosen by drawing lots.
The race begins at 7 pm.
Watch below a video from the July 2 Palio race: