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The 17 Contradas of the Siena Palio

The Contrade districts were established in the Middle ages to supply troops to the military companies who were to hired to defend Siena against Florence and other cities. They are now highly patriotic communities held together by their history and immense pride that the locals have to belong to one. Everyday events such as deaths, marriages, church holidays, baptisms are celebrated only within a Contrada and not within the wider city of Siena. There are 17 remaining Contradas, though originally there were 59.

The Contradas (districts) within Siena race against each other in the Siena di Palio in the main campo of the city. The Siena Palio race is twice a year on the 2nd July and 16th August and each race has 10 horses and their jockeys representing a Contrada. The seven Contradas that do not race are automatically included in the Palio of the same month the following year and three more are chosen by lottery to join them.

Each Contrada is named after an animal or symbol, and all have complicated heraldic and semi-mythological association. Each of the Contradas is represented by an icon, has set colours and a Motto. Based on the history of the Contrada they also have traditional professions linked to them. They also have historic alliances and rivals – it all feels very Hunger Games!

The Seventeen Contradas of Siena, and which are currently involved in the Siena di Palio, are:

AQUILA (EAGLE)

Home of the Cathedral, the Eagle is a Noble Contrada which was a title given by the Habsburg Emperor Charles V as a thank you for the warmth of his welcome in 1536

Their symbol is a black eagle with two crowned heads that holds in his claws a sceptre, sword and a globe.

The colours of the Eagle are yellow/gold trimmed with azure and black.

Their motto is “From the eagle; the beak, the claws, the wing”

Their traditional profession is a Notary.

Their allied Contradas are the Owl and the Dragon, whilst their main rival is the Panther.

Their last victory was in July 1992 at the Siena di Palio.

DRAGO (DRAGON)

Their symbol is a flying dragon bringing a banner with the letter U on.

The colours of the Dragon are pink and green trimmed with yellow

Their motto is “The fire in my heart turns to flame in my mouth”

Their traditional profession are Bankers

Their allied Contradas are Eagle, and they don’t have any adversaries.

Their last victory at the Siena Palio was in July 2018.

GIRAFFA (GIRAFFE)

This has the title of Imperial Contrada as it won the Palio in 1936 when the race was dedicated by King Vittorio Emanuello III to the Italian Empire in East Africa.

The symbol is a giraffe with a ribbon with the wording “I gave it” being led by a Moor  The colours of the Giraffe are white and red.

Their motto is “The higher the head, the greater the glory”.

Their traditional professions are Painters.

Their allied Contradas are the Owl, Porcupine, and the Panther and they don’t have any adversaries.

Their last victory at the Palio di Siena was in July 2019.

SELVA (FOREST)

Their symbol is a rhinoceros at the foot of an oak tree with hunting tools.

Their colours are green and orange with white stripes.

Their motto is “The first forest in the field”.

Their main profession are weavers, but in time of past wars they had the reputation for being excellent archers.

Their allied Contradas are the Snail and Turtle and they don’t have any adversaries.

Their last Siena Palio victory was in August 2019.

CHIOCCIOLA (SNAIL)

The symbol is a crawling snail.

The colours of the snail are yellow and red trimmed with deep-blue.

The motto of the snail is “With a slow and deliberate steps the Snail leaves the field triumphant”.

Their traditional profession are Tanners and Terracotta Makers.

Their allied Contradas are the Porcupine, Panther and Forest. Their main adversary is the Turtle.

Their last Palio Siena victory was in August 1999.

LEOCORNO (UNICORN)

Their symbol is a Unicorn with the associated wording “A Kingdom by the Grace of Umberto”.

Their colours are white and orange bordered with deep-blue.

Their motto is. “Bitter and curative is the weapon which I have before me”.

Their traditional profession are Goldsmiths.

The Allied Contradas are the Panther and the Turtle, and their rival is the Owl.

Their last victory at the Palio di Siena was in August 2007.

LUPA (WOLF)

Their symbol is a wolf that is suckling her twins. This refers to the legend that Siena was founded by Senius the son of Remus, who along with this twin Remus, was raised by a wolf.

Their colours are white and black trimmed with orange.

MOTTO – ” From the City of Rome the emblem; from Siena the honour “

They do not have any alliances and the Porcupine is their main adversary.

Their last victory at the Palio Siena was in August 2018.

NICCHIO (SEASHELL)

This is one of the four noble Contradas and it was given this title due to its bravery during the battle of Montaperti against Florence in 1260 when their soldiers led the attack.

The symbol is a Scallop shell that is surrounded by two coral branches.

Their colours are Azur with yellow and red stripes.

Their motto is “The red of the coral burns in my heart”.

The traditional profession is a potter.

Their allied Contradas are Caterpillar, Wave and Turtle and their main rival is the Ram.

Their last victory at the Palio di Siena was in 1998.

ISTRICE (PORCUPINE)

Their symbol is a porcupine on a blade of grass.

Their colours are white, red, blue and black.

Their motto is “I only sting for defence”.

Their traditional profession is a blacksmith.

Their allied Contradas are the Caterpillar, the Snail, the Owl and Giraffe and their adversaries are the Wolf.

Their last victory at the Siena Palio horseback race was in July 2008.

OCA (GOOSE)

This is one of the four noble Contradas as a result of their bravery during various battles.

The symbol is a crowned goose that wears an azur ribbon on its neck with the cross of Savoy.

Their colours are white and green striped with red.

Their motto is “I prick only for self defence”.

Their main profession are Dyers.

They don’t have any allied Contradas and their adversary is the Tower.

Their last victory at the Palio Siena was in July 2013.

BRUCO (CATERPILLAR)

This is one of the 4 Noble Contradas which was as a result of their bravery helping to defeat Charles IV.

The symbol is a crowned caterpillar crawling on a rose.

The colours of the Caterpillar are yellow and green trimmed with blue.

Their motto is “As revolution sounds my name”.

Their traditional profession are Silk workers.

Their allied Contradas are the Porcupine, Tower and Sea Shell and they do not have any adversary Contradas. Their previous animosity against the Giraffe Contrada was formally ended in 1996.

Their last victory at the Siena Palio was in August 2008.

TARTUCA (TURTLE)

Their symbol is a tortoise with alternating savoy knots and daisies.

Their colours are yellow and deep blue.

Their motto is “Strength and Consistency”.

Their profession are Sculptors.

Their allied Contradas are the Unicorn, Wave, Seashell, Forest and their main adversary is the Snail.

Their last Siena di Palio victory was in October 2018 (Special Palio) and previously July 2009.

TORRE (TOWER)

Their symbol is an elephant with a tower on its back.

Their colours are crimson red striped with white and blue.

Their motto is “Power as well as Might”.

Their traditional profession is Wool combers.

Their allied Contradas are the Caterpillar. Their adversary Contradas are the Goose and Wave, and the Tower is the only Contrada to have two enemies making it the most contentious Contrada.

Their last Siena Palio victory was in 1961.

CIVETTA (OWL)

For years the Owl was the Nonna (Grandmother) because it was the Contrada that had not won a Palio for the longest (Over 30 years!). This title was finally lost in August 2009.

Their symbol is a crowned owl sitting on a branch.

The colours of the Owl are red and black striped with white.

Their motto is “I see during the night”.

Their traditional profession are Shoemakers.

Their allied Contradas are Eagle, Giraffe, Porcupine and Panther. Their main rival is the Unicorn.

Their last victory at the Palio Siena horseback race was in August 2014.

PANTERA (PANTHER)

Their symbol is a panther.

Their colours are red and blue with white stripes.

They have two mottos which are  “The panther roared and the people were afraid” “My speed gets past all obstacles”.

Their traditional professions are grocers and chemists.

Their allied Contradas are the Snail, Owl, Giraffe and Unicorn. Their adversary is the Eagle.

Their last victory at the Siena Palio was in July 1994.

VALDIMONTONE (RAM)

The symbol is a ram with a blue shield with the letter U for Umberto on it.

Their colours are red and yellow striped by white.

Their motto is  “The walls crumbles under my horn”.

Their professional trade are Tailors.

They are allied with the Wave Contrada, and opposed to the SeaShell Contrada.

Their last win in the Siena di Palio was in August 2012.

ONDA (WAVE)

This Contrada has the title of Captain Contrada as its soldiers traditionally guarded the Palazzo Pubblico.

Their symbol is a dolphin.

Their colours are white and sky blue.

Their motto is  “The colour of heaven, the power of the ocean”.

Their traditional profession is a carpenter.

Their allied Contradas are the Turtle, Seashell, Ram and their adversary is the Tower.

Their last victory at the Siena di Palio was in August 2017.

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