Siena’s Hair-Raising Il Palio

During the key days of 2nd July and 16th August annually, the quaint medieval Siena city props to life to bear witness to the spectacular Il Palio folk celebrations unparalleled anywhere else in the world. The allegiance towards the annual horse race is the inspiration to offer gratitude to the Madonna.

Globally branded as the wholly inimitable horse race, it is actually definitely more than what is perceived, the grounding for which ensued through the year with 17 town districts or contradas putting their heart, soul and moolah into every perceivable endeavour to attain victory.

Siena’s hair-raising Il Palio

As dusk sets in on the day prior to the race, thousands of locals eat out in the elaborately staged extravagant feasts organised by every contrada to practise their definite winning festivities. As the sun sets in on the D-day, the horses are taken to a church to sanctify them prior to the competition.

Following this utterly sombre episode, the city factually goes into a crazed frenzy of sorts, as energized residents congregate at the splendid Piazza del Campo, with fifty thousand citizens gathering at the heart of the square, whilst a fortunate few get to be seated on bleachers and balconies facing the fifteenth century palazzo that borders the outer limits.

As the grand pageantry commences, the subsequent three hours transport the betrothed viewers to the medieval times. Shortly, the jockeys perched atop horses make a grand arrival, with staunch followers from each contrada vociferously supporting their heroes. The horses don the colours and designs of the particular contrada.

Formally, the jockeys take their respective positions behind the rope that indicates the starting point, as each contender is mentally crunching secretive ploys to squash their opponents. Lakhs of eager eyes scrutinise the jockeys every bodily movement and with the lowering of the umpire’s arm, the contenders speed off at death-defying speed, utterly oblivious to the rants of the crowds. In the midst of the hubbub, the least of anybody’s worries is if a jockey is without a horse. Irrespective of the rider being seated or not, the foremost horse to trudge over the finish line is the triumphant one.

The concluding moments of the Palio Il, the genuine horse race, is agonizingly succinct, close to a minute or slightly more. But, there is a whole lot more that has taken place even prior to the horde of frenetic animals ultimately breaking free from the olden cord that demarcates the start line.

This time-honoured widely eminent manifestation is a four day long affair and concludes in the roads, with the people rejoicing the merry event of the jubilant ‘Contrada’ who pay for all jollity.

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