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Twice a year, a shell-shaped piazza in the centre of Siena becomes the setting for one of Italy’s most thrilling events: Il Palio. This quick-as-a-flash horse race is a battle between the districts of the city, and thousands of locals and visitors pour into the Piazza del Campo each year to watch the spectacle unfold. It’s a quintessentially Italian event, with excitement, grandeur and plenty of passion from all sides. 

What is the Palio di Siena?

The Palio is a bareback horse race which follows a course around the edges of Siena’s medieval Piazza del Campo. Ten horses take part, representing 10 of Siena’s 17 contrade (districts). Each contrada has its own emblem and colours, which you’ll see plastered across the flags and banners that decorate the city in the days leading up to the race.  

When does the Palio take place?

There are two races each year. The first, the Palio di Provenzano, is held on 2 July, while the second, the Palio dell’Assunta, takes place on 16 August. In 2018, these dates will be a Monday and Thursday. Historic parades move through the piazza late afternoon, before the race starts at 7pm or 7.30pm.  


Experience it for yourself

Siena & the Palio

Our short break to the Palio includes a three-night stay in Siena and tickets to the race (you can choose between seats in the stands or an apartment on the square). 

See the itinerary

Tuscany & the Palio

If you’re after a countryside stay, we can arrange a rural villa or hotel for you, with car hire so you can get to Siena easily – ask our team for more info.   

Browse our Tuscany hotels

Florence & the Palio

Florence is an hour’s drive from Siena, so you can easily add a day at the Palio to your city break itinerary. Speak to our Italy Experts to plan your trip.  

Browse our Florence hotels