On the day of the Palio, each contrada’s flag bearers march around the track in the Corteo Storico (Historical Procession) in full costume for tens of thousands of fans. The traditional flag drill they perform is highly synchronized and acrobatic. To achieve perfection, contrada flag teams rehearse for hours.
Flag bearers of Chiocciola (Snail) contrada train in the streets of their neighborhood in time with a snare drummer. A practicing flag team isn’t hard to find; just follow the sharp sound of the snare drum that carries quite a long way along the stone walls of the old city. When Palio fans hear an extended drum roll, they know that they’re about to see the dramatic climax of the drill: The flag bearers toss their bandiere high in the air, and then catch them perfectly.
A Chiocciola performer leaps over his flag in another traditional move; and the Pantera (Panther) flag team rehearses in another piazza with solid red practice flags.
A man watches the flag bearers of Chiocciola contrada practice their routine.
Next: Procession to the Duomo