Position is everything on your Siena Palio package. We have an extensive range of viewing positions including grandstand, balconies and windows, for you to choose from. Italian Short Breaks has exclusive access to some of the best seats, to view this historical Siena Palio horse race from.
But understanding the history of the race is important, so our trips include a full introduction so you can witness the build up to this historical event being fully aware of what is going on around you.
This break is perfect for those wanting to stay in Siena, or in the Tuscan countryside outside. You can even extend your trip to include the Verona opera nearby.
For more information on our Siena Palio packages, please click here for our Destination Guide.
You can only truly embrace all things Palio with a full understanding of what you are witnessing. By the time our local Sienese guides have instructed you on what the Palio means ...Click for More Details
Delve into Italy's historical heart with two very different experiences. Begin your trip in Siena for the historical Palio horse Race. Immerse yourself in all things Palio with ...Click for More Details
Combining not one but two very different cultural events, this break really provides the feel of Italian heritage and history. Begin in Siena for the Palio horse race with a wide ...Click for More Details
This break is the perfect Italian break encompassing viewing the opera in an open-air Roman arena in Verona, the beauty of the Renaissance in Florence and the thrilling historical ...Click for More Details
We thought we knew Siena well but learned and experienced so much more this time than on previous visits. We loved the Athena hotel (exceptionally good restaurant, very warm staff); our guide Paulo was excellent – well informed and helpful – the Palio itself was a unique experience - preparation, the trials and the Contrada dinner and procession and race on the day itself.
What a great, great weekend we had in Sienna! Thanks to your staff and particularly to you for getting us to the Palio. I can't say it was a once in lifetime event because my hope is to return sooner than later. So please leave us on your emailing list. Enjoy your Summer.
Siena Palio Breaks
Attending a Siena Palio Package is the only way to have a deep understanding of this historical event. The actual Palio race itself has been performed for over 700 years, when initially ox and later donkeys were raced around the campo square three times for victory. Later this was upgraded to horses. However, the initial premise of the race remains the same; which is a chance for the local contradas (district) to race around the track three times to win the Palio (banner/flag) for prestige.
In only the way Italians could do there are no rules except one which is you cannot touch the reins of another Jockeys horse. Apart from that you can do anything you want and you will see intense rivalry as the jockeys race bareback around the campo. The winner is the first horse that crosses the line – it does not need to have a jockey on board!
The Palio di Siena is an extremely political event with vast amounts of money exchanging hands in the lead up to the race which all influence how the race is run. The guide will take you through some of these political machinations so you understand better how the Siena Palio horse race is run. For example the race starts when the 10th horse enters the start line, this is called the Mossa and this start can last 5 mins or an hour. It just depends! Deals will have been done between different Contradas which affect when the 10th horse moves. The jockey of this horse could be waiting for its rival to be particularly badly positioned before it enters the Siena Palio start line (which is just a rope across).
Il Palio di Siena takes place twice a year and always on the same dates – 2 July and 16 August. Our Siena Palio break provides a full introduction to the Palio which includes witnessing the Palio Trials the day prior to the race. This is very important as the horses race around the track to see which jockeys, horses and contradas will be entered into each race. There are too many to all compete in each Palio, so those that are not chosen in July, have the opportunity to race in August instead.
Part of your tour given by a local Sienese guide includes a visit to a Contrada museum where you can see original costumes and prizes gathered over the year.
However, there is so much more! Your Siena Palio package has included an open-air Contrada dinner the night before the race. This is a open air “good luck” dinner for the jockey and horse, and we are very fortunate to be able to secure tickets to this for our clients. Expect Italian enthusiasm, singing, speeches and an excited and positive atmosphere as they prepare for the Siena Palio!
Obviously we cannot guarantee the Contrada dinner that you attend is for the Contrada that wins, but our local Italian partner waits to buy the tickets until he has a feel for who has a good chance of winning. Having attended a Contrada dinner you will be want to cheer for them at the Palio di Siena race and hopefully you will cheering for a Siena Palio Horse Race winner or a near contender. We have a good track record of getting it right! We recommend you purchase their Contrada scarf so as to show your loyalty and cheer them on.
On the day of the Palio race, our local Sienese guides try to get you into a horse blessing in one of the churches which is rather special. We cannot guarantee this but they try hard and have been successful most years in getting our clients in.
Once seated in your Palio viewing position you can also witness the parades, which include the Carabinieri racing around the campo, an ox dragging a cart around the track and all the different Contrada Flag banners being twirled and whirled in dramatic fashion. The build up is a sight to be seen and the atmosphere builds as the Siena local people join the throngs nearer the start time.
In terms of the Palio viewing positions, there are quite a few options depending on where on the track you want to be, and we are delighted to have access to such a large choice of Siena Palio Horse Race viewing positions.
The Mossa which is the start and finish of the race is at the highest point of the track, so if you opt for a position where you can see the Mossa, then you are likely to see the whole campo as well as the start and finish.
There are three main viewing positions which are the Grandstand, Balcony and Window.
The Grandstands are the closest to the track that the horses race right past, and also where the Sienese choose to witness the race so there is always an electric atmosphere here. It is here that you will really appreciate the feverent passion of the locals . However there is no access to bathrooms or refreshments in the GrandStands and you have to leave them in order to seek both out.
The balcony positions are above the grandstands and are the first to sell out of our Palio di Siena positions. They are often situated at corners which tend to be where the action is and you can have a great view of the horses running straight at you before the corner. Most come with refreshments or loo access, but at times can feel crammed as you are on benches, and Italians idea of personal space is less than the British.
The windows are above the balconies, and are private to you situated in people’s private apartments. The benefit of that is you have your own space and can of course walk around and sit whilst waiting, and have easy access to loos, and in many cases to light refreshments. The viewing positions of the Palio di Siena will be standing, and please remember that the buildings are over 700 years old so the windows are in keeping with the smaller window measurements of that time, and there are no lifts to any of the positions.
We really do have unique access for Siena Palio viewing positions. For several years we have had clients on a private to them balcony which is situated right above the Banner that the winning jockey climbs up to claim as his prize. It literally feels as if the Jockey is climbing up to you if you are on that balcony!
The Siena Palio is a fantastic way to immerse yourself fully in Italian culture, but Siena is also ideally located to combine with many other Italian cities. Choose to combine with a Verona Opera Trip, a Florence city break, combine with experiencing the Puccini Festival in Lucca, or maybe even venture to Venice for a romantic stay. All are very possible when you arrange this with Italian Short Breaks.