Welcome to the
Palio of Siena 2012!

All you need to know about
the Palio Horse Race in Siena Italy


Florence Italy Travel Guide - Tuscany travel itinerary The Palio of Siena event is your chance to experience Medieval Siena traditions today!

Siena palio races will take you back to Italy seventeenth century and add a good portion of adrenaline to your visit to Tuscany.

Siena palio (il palio di Siena - in Italian) is truly one of most interesting festivals in Italy and in Europe gathering thousands of tourists every year.


Jump down to Palio of Siena 2012 Dates, News & Contrade


Palio of Siena 2012

Palio Siena Horse Race

The Palio Races of Siena

What is Palio in Siena Italy?

Siena palio are horse races held in Siena since 1656 (some sources give 14th century as a starting date). Although first Siena races were done with bulls and even with donkeys, later a definite switch to horses was made.

Palio horse race participants are chosen by a lot held in spring which allows only ten different Contradas to take part in palio of Siena. A certain number of Contrade have a right to participate in Palio "di obbligo" - for sure, without being selected by a lottery.

What are Contrade of Siena?

Contrada of Siena is a kind of historical local municipal government (neighborhoods) having a very long history. Siena is divided into Contradas for 800 years.

Siena Contrada Names and Flags

Initially there were 59 Contradas (Contrade) in Siena and there are left only 17 till nowadays. Each Conrad has its own symbol, a flag and a name:

  • Contrada flags of siena palioAquila (Eagle)
  • Bruco (Caterpillar)
  • Chiocciola (Snail)
  • Civetta (Little Owl)
  • Drago (Dragon)
  • Giraffa (Giraffe)
  • Istrice (Crested Porcupine)
  • Leocorno (Unicorn)
  • Lupa (She-Wolf)
  • Nicchio (Seashell)
  • Oca (Goose)
  • Onda (Wave)
  • Pantera (Panther)
  • Selva (Forest)
  • Tartuca (Tortoise)
  • Torre (Tower)
  • Valdimontone (Valley of the Ram)

Siena Contrade Flags

How are Siena Palio horses selected?

Palio horses are selected a few days before the event. All the horses must go through the test run (the tratta) in order to select 10 best horses for Palio races. All the 10 horses selected by a trial get a number written behind their ear.

"The best horse doesn't always win the race"
- Irish Saying

What are Palio dates?

Palio of Siena is summer event in Tuscany held twice. Siena Palio dates are always July 2 and August 16.

A few days before the Palio Siena piazza del Campo gets prepared for the show. The unique half-round shape of piazza del Campo perfectly allows placing the visitors in the middle and the race participants along the side.

Palio of Siena 2012 Dates & Contrade
Do you know which Contrade will participate in Siena Palio 2012?

These Contrade will for sure take part in Palio on July 2, 2012

Eagle, Giraffe, Unicorn, Shell, Wave, Forest

Eagle contrade palio of siena   Giraffe contrada siena palio   Unicorn contrade siena palio races   Sea shell contrada Palio in Siena   Wave contrade Siena horse races   Forest contrada Palio in Italy Siena

These Contrade will for sure take part in Palio races in August 16, 2012

Owl, Dragon, Wave, Forest, Tortoise, Ram

Owl contrade siena italy palio   Dragon contrade Siena palio   Wave contrade Siena horse races   Forest contrada Palio in Italy Siena   Tortoise contrade siena italy  Ram contrade siena italy

July Trials start on June 29, and August Trials start on August 13.

The other participating Contrade will be selected in May 2012 (for July Palio) and in July 2012 (for August Palio race).
We will keep you updated.

UPDATED! - On May 27, 2012 the following contrade have been selected for participating in il Palio of 2 July, 2012:

Snail, Dragon, Tortoise, Caterpillar
UPDATED! - And the Winner is...

On Siena Palio of 2 July, 2012 the Winer is contrade Wave (Onda) which haven't won since far July 1995!


What's so special about the Palio in Siena?
Interesting Palio Facts

The Palio and its trials are run clockwise, when most of other horse races are counter-clockwise.

Contradas can not choose the horse for races. The horses for Palio are selected by a lottery.

If a horse get injured during the trials of Palio the Contrade doesn't get another horse and has to be pulled out of Palio races.

And the funniest Siena Palio fact, in my opinion, is that the Palio itself lasts only 90 seconds!


And remember, when visiting Palio of Siena, if you are planning to seat in the middle of the square (Piazza del Campo) it gets very hot there in July and August.

Although the Palio itself is only 90 seconds long the parades and shows are held all day. Be careful with taking middle square places especially when traveling with babies and children.

Terrace seats are available but are normally fully booked long before the summer event in Siena. Be sure to order your Siena Palio tickets well in advance.


Take the most exciting Tuscany guided Siena tours departing from Florence Italy!

Private Tour: Siena and San Gimignano
Siena and San Gimignano Day Trip from Florence
Livorno Shore Excursion: Siena and San Gimignano

Siena and San Gimignano Small Group Day Trip from Florence
Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour
... and more!

See more best guided Siena Tours that have been pre-selected especially for you!


Siena Lodging, Restaurants & Attractions


Photos of Piccolo Hotel Il Palio, Siena
This photo of Piccolo Hotel Il Palio is courtesy of TripAdvisor

See more cozy hotels in Siena

See best Siena Restaurants

Map of Siena Hotels and Restaurants

See other Siena Attractions and Things to Do



Recommended resources

Interpretation of the Palio in Siena

Siena Summer

Seven Seasons in Siena

Siena: Constructing the Renaissance City

Secrets of Siena


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