The Palio is a horse race between the Contrades (Boroughs) of Siena, Italy. There are only two races a year – in July and August - and one of them falls on my wife’s birthday, so after always saying we wanted to go, we finally did.
The race is held in The Piazza del Campo, the most beautiful square in the heart of Siena. The July event is the main one and is limited to the top 10 horses.
Well what can I say, we felt like kids on Christmas morning on the day of the race, along with the birthday the atmosphere and build up to the Palio itself was an amazing medieval and theatrical spectacle.
We stayed in an absolutely smashing hotel about 10 minutes walk from Piazza del Campo, called Palazzo Ravizza.
It was perfect. We sat out in the gardens in the morning for breakfast which was idyllic, with beautiful fresh mountain air.
The rooms were spotless and well furnished. Even though it was a very old hotel the décor was in keeping with the age of the building but maintaining all the requirements of modern travellers.
The staff are charming and reception loved telling us all about The Palio, its history and tradition. A return visit is a definite.
The parade -pictured above - was magical and so worth watching, the race was out of this world & even though you cannot bet on the race the two horses we championed came first & second: Lupa and Oca!
I am sure it is The Godfather on horseback but you would not have it any other way. It is a very dangerous race for both jockey and horse. One jockey punctured a lung coming off, as it is a bareback horserace.
We saw a man of about 75 drop to his knees in tears on the racetrack after Lupa won (the first time in 24 years), that is how much it means to them. The next day we happened to be by the Duomo at about 11am and a victory parade started for Lupa Contrade which we knew nothing about but so glad we stumbled across it. It was a day and night of celebration.
Well what can we say, The Palio is something people in this country seem not to know too much about but they are so missing an amazing event, even if you do not go to the actual races go to Siena when it's running and you cannot help but be wrapped up in the tradition of the race and the city itself.
Lastly, because I have gone on too long I just want to say how amazing Abbotts have been in organising this weekend for us. The hotel was fantastic, The Palio was amazing, the whole trip truly memorable.
Thank you Abbotts for yet again being the very best at what you do.
Morris & Corinne