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Visual stories about a medieval ritual

Tradition, pride, and color: Il Palio is a centuries-old horse race held every July and August among the contrade (neighborhoods) of Siena, Italy. It takes place in Il Campo, the city’s central piazza, on a special earthen track laid down twice every summer just for this event. There is one winner, no stopwatch, and no cash prize. The contrade race to win extremely valuable bragging rights over the rest of the city. Rivalries are ancient and fierce. The Sienese perform the rituals for themselves, not as a show for tourists.

Many tourists come only for the famous final race. But it’s a better experience when you also witness the four days leading up to it, which are filled with test races, colorful processions in historical costumes including knights in armor, and massive feasts that fill entire plazas and streets.

It’s impossible for a single person to see everything, so this site represents only the parts I was lucky to experience. I’ve added links to other Palio web sites to help fill in the blanks.

Start the story: Around Siena during the Palio


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