The pageantry and excitement of the Palio di Siena is something I’ve wanted to experience for a long time. Fortunately, I recently had the opportunity to attend this spectacular event with the help of the folks at Palio Tours, a tour company that specializes in packages to the beautiful medieval city of Siena and the surrounding Tuscan countryside. As their name suggests, Palio Tours is the leader in presenting travelers with the ultimate Palio experience, providing not just accommodations and viewing options for the Palio itself, but also offering many ways for the traveler to delve deep into the traditions and culture that fuel the excitement of the legendary horse race.
The Palio itself is a centuries-old contest between the various districts of the city of Siena in which ten horses, each representing a particular district, ridden bareback by a jockey who may or may not finish the race atop his mount, race at breakneck speed around the city’s Piazza del Campo, surrounded by ancient buildings and cheered on by a passionate crowd of locals and tourists. The folks at Palio Tours offered me a spectacular way to watch the race, from an apartment balcony or window overlooking the square where every detail of the event was visible in all its ancient glory.
While the race itself only lasts for a little more than a minute, the ceremony surrounding the event includes such elements as the blessing of the horses, with each horse being led into a church to be blessed by a priest on the morning of the race. Additionally, each district, known as a contrada, gathers its citizens for a feast on the night before the event, stoking the excitement of the residents and promoting community spirit. Palio Tours arranged for me to participate in both of these traditions. By the time I had dined and celebrated with the Contrada della Panterra and accompanied their horse to the blessing, I indeed felt like a member of the community.
Aside from enabling the traveler to enjoy these special activities from an insider’s perspective, Palio Tours also offers a wide selection of accommodation options, including everything from private apartments throughout the city to the first-class Grand Hotel Continental, the magnificent Renaissance-era hotel I stayed in through their premium package. Arranged experiences like an authentic Tuscan cooking class—where guests are guided through the preparation of a delicious four-course meal—and a tour and tasting at a nearby winery deepened my sense of connection to the city and the region while visiting Siena for Palio. Although I’d waited a long time to finally see the Palio, my experience was even better than I’d imagined it thanks to the many opportunities provided by the folks at Palio Tours.
For more information on Palito Tours, visit paliotours.com.