As usual the yearly "Palio" took place in Siena in the honour of the Virgin Mary.
As usual the yearly "Palio" took place in Siena in the honour of the Virgin Mary. This spontaneous manifestation which goes back to the 15th century, makes the spectator even if he is a foreigner momentarily think and live again in medieval terms with its mixture of mystic and pagan spirit. The main event of the "Palio" is a horse race in which all the sections of the city compete against each other. The winning of this event is greatly coveted by the contenders who are allowed to use all the means at their disposal "no holds barred" to be first at the finish line. The race is valid even, as it often happens, if the horse reaches the finish line alone. The rider is easily unseated because he must ride without a saddle. The length of the race consists of three turns around a track set up in the CAMPO square, one of the largest and most beautiful squares in the world.
The retinue enters the square in a riot of beautiful colours. It is opened by the Commune's "Mace holders" followed by the "Captain of the People" and the "Banner carriers" holding aloft the flags of the towns which were ruled over by Siena. Then the representatives of the seventeen sections of the city parade while they skilfully handle their section's banner; throwing it up in the air and catching it before it touches the ground. Then follows the "CARROCCIO" on which an altar has been set and the Communes heralds with their silver trumpets. Meanwhile the horses are ready at the starting line, the great moment has arrived. A petard going off gives the signal to start, an immense cry arises from the throng gathered in the square and continues throughout the race.
The seventeen "Contrade" assume the names of real or imaginary animals, aspects of nature, or emblems of war such as the Eagle, Snail, wave, Phanter, Forest, Tortoise, Owl, Unicorn, Shell, Tower, Mountain, Caterpillar, Dragon, Giraffe, Ostrich, Wolf, Goose.
Only ten "Contrade", by drawing, are a party to race (Wolf, Goose, Eagle, Shell, Forest, Unicorn, Tower, Dragon, Owl and Tortoise of which horse became lame at general proof.
The winning "Contrada" has been the Shell.