If you’re headed to Siena, Italy, for Palio Siena, you’ll want to arrive a few days early. Many exciting festivities start several days before the most famous horse races in the world on July 2 and August 16. To get the most out of your Palio Siena experience, you should plan your trip to coincide with these events:
3 days out (June 29 or August 13)
- Early morning – The horses selected for this year’s Palio Siena are presented.
- Midmorning – After making sure the horses are suitable to race, the final ten are selected.
- Late morning – Horses are assigned to Contradas by drawing lots.
- Evening – The first of six trial runs takes place.
- Morning – The second trial run occurs.
- Evening – The third trial run occurs.
- Morning – The fourth trial run takes place.
- Evening – The fifth trial run, or final rehearsal, takes place.
- Late evening – The main street and the main piazza of Siena are lined with tables for the Final Rehearsal Dinner. Each Contrada participating in the event gathers for a community dinner with their jockey, leaders, community members, guests, and some tourists. Songs, speeches, and well-wishes are exchanged as food and wine flow.
- Early morning – The Chapel next to the City Hall hosts “Jockey Mass.”
- Midmorning – The final trial run of Palio Siena happens.
- Midafternoon – Each Contrada’s parish church blesses the horse and jockey. Then, everyone comes together for the elaborate Corteo Storico, a pageant that includes flag wavers (Alfieri) in medieval costumes and the military police of Italy (the Carabinieri) on horseback demonstrating maneuvers with swords.
- Late afternoon – The procession leaves the courtyard and moves to the main square.
- Evening – The final pageantry takes place with the raising of the Palio banner. Soon after, the race begins!