Palio di Siena is the most famous palio, or horserace, in all of Italy. It is held twice a year just minutes from Casali on July 2nd and August 16th. Riders and horses in the race represent one of the seventeen Contrade, or the city wards.
Any connection with the sacred games of the ancient Romans being obscured by time, the earliest known antecedents of the race are medieval. The town's central piazza was the site of public games, largely combative: pugna, a sort of many-sided boxing match or brawl; jousting; and in the 16th century, bullfights. Public races organized by the Contrade were popular from the 14th century on; called palii alla lunga, they were run across the whole city.
When the Grand Duke of Tuscany outlawed bullfighting in 1590, the Contrade took to organising races in the Piazza del Campo. The first such races were on buffalo-back and called bufalate; asinate, races on donkey-back, later took their place, while horse-racing continued elsewhere. The first modern Palio (called palio alla tonda to distinguish it from the earlier palii alla lunga) took place around 1650. At first, one race was held each year, on July 2; a second, on August 16, was added later. The horses go around the piazza three times.
Let the Casali staff be your guide to the ins and outs of the local tradition and all the pageantry that comes with it. From the best seats in the balconies to an up close and personal look from the infield, you will have an experience to remember for a life time.