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The long-awaited event in Siena is coming back to the Tuscan city: the Palio Horce Race, one of the most famous events in the world. Horses, as usual, will run on July, 2nd and August, 16th and 10 contradas – districts of the city – will challenge each others.
But traditions are not over. As a matter of fact, as every year, the race will be precede by the historical parade with ancient costumes.
Here it is the Program scheduled for Palio Horse Race 2011:
28th JUNE from 5 a.m. to 7.30 a.m. – 12th AUGUST from 5.30 a.m. to 8.00 a.m. – rehearsal training.
29th JUNE -13th AUGUST at 7.00 a.m. – Presentation of horses participating in the race (“batterie”).
29th JUNE -13th AUGUST at 9.00 a.m. – The trials begin (tratta). It is a process by which the horses are matched to the ten Contradas that will participate in the Palio. The horses, after having been examined by veterinarians and considered to be in ideal condition, are divided into groups of 5-7 horses for “batterie” or trials and then allowed to run around the dirt (tufo) track three times to determine if they are suitable to run on this type of track. At the end of the trials, the Captains of the Contradas, in the presence of the Mayor, get together to choose the 10 most suitable horses.
29th JUNE -13th AUGUST at 12.00 a.m.- 1.00 p.m. – On a platform assembled in front of the Municipal Building (Palazzo Pubblico) the drawing for the horses to be assigned to each of the contradas takes place. After each horse is assigned, the “Barbaresco” goes and gets the horse which was drawn and takes it back to the Contrada’s stall, accompanied by the members of the contrada (contradaioli).
29th JUNE at 7.45 -13th AUGUST at 7.15 – the first of the six trial runs preceding the Palio. By means of these trials the condition of both the horse and the jockey (fantino) can be verified. For each trial the horse is accompanied to the “Entrone” (courtyard entrance of the Municipal Building) from the Contrada’s stall by a large group of contrada members who often sing traditional songs. In order to see the trials, it is necessary to get a place in the square or in the stands before the track is cleaned “fatto pulito”, that is, cleared out by the Police force. It is also the same for all the other trials. Each contrada chooses a jockey that can be changed at anytime up until the morning of the Palio. Only the horse cannot be changed. The horses enter the starting block in the order that the contradas will enter into the Piazza the evening of the Palio for the procession.
30th JUNE -14th AUGUST at 9.00 a.m. – Second trial run. The horse line up at the starting line is the reverse of the previous evening.
30th JUNE at 7.45 p.m. – 14th AUGUST at 7.15 p.m. – Third trial run. The horse line up is the same order as the assigning of the horses to the contradas.
1st JULY-15th AUGUST at 9.00 a.m.– Forth trial run. The horse line up is the reverse of the previous evening.
1st JULY at 7.45 p.m. -15th AUGUST at 7.15 p.m. – “Prova generale” or dress rehearsal. The horse line up is according to the number that the horses were assigned on their ears for the drawing.
1st JULY-15th AUGUST at 8.30 p.m. – Dress Rehearsal Dinner. In all the neighborhoods of the Contradas who participate in the Palio race, the leaders, contrada members, guests and even tourists gather for a dinner in honor of the protagonists of the Palio. At the head table the jockeys is present with the leaders of the contrada. There are many songs, speeches and toasts made for a successful race.
After dinner, the Captains and their assistants go to meet the other leaders of the contradas with whom they are friends to make secret agreements to favour either their own victory or that of their friends contrada or to hinder their rival: all on a handshake.
2 JULY and 16 AUGUST at 7.45 a.m. – In the Chapel in front of the Municipal Building, the Archbishop celebrates a Mass for all the jockeys, called “La Messa del Fantino”.
2 JULY & 16 AUGUST 9.00 a.m. – Last trial run. It is called the “Provaccia” because there is a general indifference by the Contradas. After this trial, all the Captains and the jockeys meet in the City Hall to enroll the jockey for each Contrada and to present the silk shirts that the jockeys will wear for the race. After the official assignment of the jockeys has been made they cannot be changed.
2 JULY 3.30 p.m. & 16 AUGUST 3.00 p.m. – Benediction of the horse and the jockey. After the members of the historical parade get dressed up in their costumes, in the Contrade that are participating in the Palio, the ritual of the benediction of the horse and the jockey in their respective contrada churches takes place. The priest, concludes the mysterious rite, with a wish that is almost an order: Go and return victorious! Later, the historical parade participants of the Contradas and of the city, march across the old town center, making stops and waving flags in: Piazza Salimbeni, “casino dei Nobili”, in front of the Chigi Saracini Palace, and in Piazza del Duomo.
2 JULY 4.30 p.m. & 16 AUGUST 3.50 p.m. – The procession leaves the courtyard of Palazzo del Governo in Piazza del Duomo, and heads for the Piazza del Campo.
2 JULY 5.20 p.m. & 16 AUGUST 4.50 p.m. – The historical parade enters the square, according to the order of the first trial run.
2 JULY 7.30 p.m. & 16 AUGUST 7.00 p.m. – The Palio banner is hoisted up onto the Judges Stand while the final flag waving ritual of the seventeen flag wavers takes place. The Palio begins!
This post is also available in: Italian