Originally made up of 59 contrade, or districts, only 17 remain in the medieval hilltop city of Siena. The contrade were originally established in the middle ages to supply the military companies hired to defend Siena from Florence and other nearby states; nowadays, despite there no longer being a requirement the intense rivalry between each still remains.
Individually named after an animal or symbol, once born into a contrada important events such as baptism, marriage, death, church holidays and even food and wine festivals are celebrated within that contrada. The fierce rivalry that remains all comes to a head at the bi-annual Palio, with the horses kept under lock and key at in their respective contrada's church the night before the big race- it's every contrada for themselves!
Visitors can explore each contrada and sense the patriotism even when the Palio isn't taking place. With each district having their own colours, flags, churches and ceremonial fountains it’s great fun to spot and tick them off whilst wondering through the city.