Siena, located in the region of Tuscany, is well known for a horse race called “The Palio”. It is run twice, once in July and again in August. The Palio is a competition between the neighborhoods in Siena to bring home the honor of a win. Each neighborhood, or cantrade, is named for an animal. Some are called the Elephant, the Goose, the Eagle, the Dragon, the Caterpillar, the Giraffe and even a Snail. These are just to name a select few as there are 17 in all. A very famous saint, Saint Catherine of Siena, her contrade was the Goose and apparently wins quite often. Most people are suspicious about that.
Siena is gorgeous, hands down a must see. What is most breath-taking is the square, which is where the Palio is held. The circular area is used as a track and filled with five inches of sand so that the horses can run with the riders, bareback, 3 times around it. While we have never been to the race, it is something I would really love to do. While getting a ticket is possible, I would never take our six-year-old in an area where we could see the race. It can be dangerous and I would only from a window view with him which are pricey.
However, what intrigues me more about the Palio is the tradition itself. When I was there last, with my friend and her daughter, we were able to see the Elephant contrade rehearsing for the parade. The sound of the drums, the look of the uniforms and the procession were amazing.