This summer the breakneck horse race known locally as Il Palio will take place on 16 August in the main square of the medieval Tuscan town of Siena.
The race is short and simple in nature with ten horses and jockeys riding bareback against each other in what has been described as the horse-riders most daring challenge. Each rider wears a strip to represent one of the seventeen Contrada’s of Siena but only ten are selected to compete in the final race.
The first Il Palio ‘Palio di Provenzano’ honours the ‘Madonna di Provenzano’, a church in Siena that is no longer standing and the second ‘Palio dell’Assunta’, honours the ‘Assumption of Mary’. The Corteo Storico pageant precedes the races serving up some sumptuous pre-race entertainment.
The race itself lasts no more than 90 seconds and is a frantic duel around the treacherous Piazza del Campo. A measure of this madness amid the dust-cloud of stomping hoofs is that the riders are permitted to use their whips to disturb other horses. Furthermore, a horse can still win the race if it is first past the post regardless of whether its jockey remains intact!
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