The Night Before Palio…

Jun
2013
26

posted by on Events

 
Dinner in Contrada Palio Siena Tuscany

The tables are ready for the dinner in contrada. Image: andtrap on Flickr

Every year, the Tuscan city of Siena hosts one of the most historic and colourful events in Italy. The event, which dates back to 1281, is the Siena Palio. The Palio is an important horserace that takes place around the Piazza del Campo. Practically the whole city gets involved, but it isn’t just the race itself which gets people riled up; the night before Palio is also not to be missed!The origins of this spectacular race go back to the middle ages, when Siena had 17 well defined districts, called contrade. Despite having lost their administrative function, these neighbourhoods still exist and the residents of each contrada have their own little community. This horserace is, and always has been a competition between the contrade, with each represented by a horse and carefully chosen jockey. Each contrada has specific colours and symbols, including a wave, shell, owl, dragon and, funnily enough, tortoise and snail. Whoever chose the latter two clearly didn’t think representing the idea of speed was necessary.

While the race is a undoubtedly a thrilling event, the actual preparations start taking place months before. The official season starts at the end of April, and this is when the whirlwind activity begins. However, the night before the Palio is perhaps the most impressive and lively celebration before the actual race. The streets of the different contrade are lit by torches and lanterns, and huge tables- some of which are about 50 feet long- are set up outside, in the main squares. What then takes place, is literally an outdoor celebratory dinner for thousands, served up by the local people of the contrada, who volunteer their culinary skills! Approximately 25,000 Sienese are fed great big portions of pasta, meat and vegetables, naturally with a good few bottles of local red wine on the side. But it’s not just locals who take part; tourists are also able to join the in the feast and the festivities, although places are limited- there are just a few in each contrada. The atmosphere is exciting yet serious, with flags hung everywhere and lots of loud chanting, and you can sense the tension building before this important event. This is undoubtedly one of the most noteworthy events for the people of Siena.

If you’d like to experience the night before Palio, then we can organise it for you! Why not be one of the lucky few to take part in one of these unforgettable dinners? Contact us for more information. We also have a selection of Siena tours from Florence. Our Siena tours in Italy include walking tours around the city, as well as tours which combine visits to other local places of interest, including the beautiful Chianti area and the popular medieval town of San Gimignano. So, whether you’d like to be in the midst of the Palio excitement, or fancy exploring the streets of this wonderful city, we have something to interest you.

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