Experience the Palio di Siena, the oldest medieval tradition that has remained untouched for centuries!
The Palio di Siena is a unique series of events and rites that has influenced life in this city year round for centuries. The culminating moments are the two horse races on July 2nd in honor of the Madonna di Provenzano and on August 16th in honor of the Madonna Assunta, the Ascension of Our Lady.
We take you by the hand over the four days of these grandiose celebrations throughout the city to visit one of the Contrade headquarters, participate in the lively festivities the night before the race, enjoy the quieter test races in Piazza del Campo, visit the key locations for the Palio in the city center, and, finally, watch the horse race from an exclusive location!
The Palio di Siena is not just a race: it is a festival that takes place over 4 days during which we will be your local friend to guide you throughout the various events so you can get a sense of the thriving medieval tradition that enchants people from all over the world with its uniqueness and beauty.
Siena is a magical city which is divided into seventeen districts called “Contrade”. The citizens of Siena belong to the Contrada where their house was located when they were born. In Siena, being baptized with water from the sacred contrada fountain basically counts more than being baptized into the Church. Membership to a Contrada is for life, and it is deeply felt by the Sienese whose lives are marked by all the activities of their Contrada, the successes and the losses.
Only ten of these Contrada race in the Palio at a time. Participation in the race is regulated by a lottery. The horses do not belong to the Contrada but are owned by private citizens, and they are randomly picked for a Contrada just three days before the final race. Good luck!
Starting from the evening after the lottery and over the following three days, there are several practice runs not only to check on the condition of the horses but also to make clandestine bets and attempts to bribe the jockeys, not to mention the skirmishes between contrada members.
The day of the Palio is a continual build up of emotion, starting in the morning with the Holy Mass for the jockeys followed by the blessing of the horses in their respective Contrada churches. In the afternoon, there is the “Corteo Storico”, a historical parade through the center of Siena.
Everything moves towards the Campo, the main square where ten small wooden balls painted with the Contrada colours called “barberi” are used to randomly decide the order of the starting line up.
The race itself consists of three laps around the square, approximately 1 km, at the end of which, the winning contrada and its allies explode into celebration for the victory.
- Hotel for 4 nights with breakfast
- Private local guide
- Visit to a contrada museum
- Tickets for dinner in a contrada the night before the final race day
- Horse blessing ceremony
- Historical parade
- Private Brunello di Montalcino wine tour
- Reservations for dinners (order a la carte and pay there)
- Reservation assistance to get the tickets for the best Palio seats at a window or on a balcony as there are several options to choose from. The cost of the ticket is not included.
What's not included
- The tickets for the museums and other monuments as well as events like the Palio. If you prefer to avoid these sights, we will tailor the tour with alternatives.
Day 1 – June 29th (or August 13th)
-arrive and check in to the hotel in Siena
20:00 – dinner reservation at one of our favorite restaurants within walking distance
Day 2 – June 30th (or August 14th)
9:00 – meet your guide and go to see the morning Prova, one of the many trial races
10:00 – private guided tour of Siena, including an exclusive visit to one of the Contrada museums
13:00 – lunch at a great spot to taste some of the most famous Sienese dishes
14:00 – continue on your guided tour of the city with a visit to the Cathedral and stops at the most important locations for the Palio
20:00 – Dinner reservation at one of our favorite restaurants within walking distance
Day 3 – July 1st (or August 15th)
9:30 – pick-up by English speaking food & wine driver guide and transfer to Montalcino in private luxury vehicle
10:30 – private tour of a famous medium-sized winery with tasting of 3-5 wines
12:30 – visit Sant’Antimo Abbey and take some nice pictures of this magnificent place
13:30 – lunch at a beautiful spot in the countryside with homemade field-to-table delicacies and a great view “al fresco”
15:30 – stop in Montalcino for a stroll through this small village and check out its small cafés, shops, and incredible views from the city walls
16:30 – transfer back to Siena
20:00 – in the evening you will have the opportunity to attend one of the Contrada banquets, invitation only dinners where the many members and supporters for each Contrade dine outside in their own districts within the historical city center. With all the wine, food and the friendliest of atmospheres, you will surely begin to understand how the Palio is more than just a horse race.
Day 4 – July 2nd (or August 16th) – PALIO DAY
9:00 – see the Provaccia, the final trial race, Free time to rest before the long afternoon of events
15:00 – participate in one of the horse blessing ceremonies escorted by your private guide. We then follow the rush of Palio events to Piazza del Campo where the formal historical parade arrives. Get to your seats, and enjoy the race!
20:00 – Reservation for dinner at a top restaurant within walking distance from the Piazza del Campo
Day 5 – July 3rd (or August 17th)
10:00 – check out and continue on your travels
Tickets for the Palio are not included in this package because there are many different options to choose from depending on your preferences.
Watching the Palio from the area in the center of the main square, Piazza del Campo, is free if you can get in before the gates close at 5 pm. This solution is not the best because you must stand for hours in a very crowded place. Imagine being right in front of the stage at a rock concert.
A Palio ticket is required to access balconies, grandstands, and windows which are all private properties. We let you decide what you prefer because there are big differences among the 3 solutions:
- Grandstands, which are erected directly on the track, offer an up-close view of all the action
- Windows offer more comfort
- Balconies offer a bit of both, it is comfortable and you can see the square from a higher point of view
There is no central box office for tickets so we deal with private brokers to get you the best position for your Palio experience.
When you buy a Palio ticket through us, you will get a numbered ticket that grants you exclusive access to the selected spot and, sometimes, access to a toilet and/or a buffet.
Can you transfer us from our previous/following destination in Italy to/from Siena?
Yes, we can provide this service. Contact us by email to receive a personalized price quote.
Why are the Palio Tickets an extra, to be paid separately?
Because there are so many different positions and points of view that we prefer to let you choose what is best for your wishes, needs, and budget.
Can I just order Palio Tickets without booking this tour?
Individual Palio ticket orders will be accepted. Please contact us by email.
Where is the Palio race run in Siena?
Since the mid-1600s, the Palio di Siena has been held on both July 2nd and August 16th in the city’s famous Piazza del Campo. The main square is in the shape of a seashell, curved at the top and flat on the bottom. The horses race 3 laps around the piazza clockwise on “tufo”, the clay laid down in the square for each race.
What happens if it rains?
If there is rain on the day of the Palio (July 2nd or August 16), the race will be rescheduled for the next day (July 3rd or August 17) or even the day after if necessary. Your tickets are still good for the race on whatever day it is held. Unfortunately, there are no refunds if you are not able to stay on for the rescheduled race.
What time does the race start and end?
The time to be in your reserved ticket position is by 4:45 pm. The race is usually over by 8:30 pm.