Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards: this is the Palio di Siena (known locally simply as Il Palio), a horse race that is held in Siena, Tuscany twice each year, on July 2 and August 16.
This is not a mere touristic event, but a significant part in the life of the city today as it did centuries ago. Visitors to the city can assist for free from the center of Piazza del Campo (no chairs, the first who arrives gets a place) or pay a ticket to get a more comfortable position from the balconies of the buildings overlooking the show.
The Palio held on July 2 is named Palio di Provenzano, in honour of the Madonna of Provenzano, a Marian devotion particular to Siena which developed around an icon from the Terzo Camollia.
Other Palios are sometimes held in May and September, as extraordinary events approved by the Municipality.
Apart from the big race, which takes place on July 2, other side events are celebrated in Siena during the entire week, like historical parades and the winner’s flag exhibition on the City’s Town Hall.