Palio di Siena, Italy
Palio di Siena is a horse race held twice a year in the medieval town of Siena in Tuscany on July 2 and August 16. The race features jockeys representing each of the neighborhoods or contradas of the city. Riding bareback, the race takes place around the Piazza del Campo (which is filled with dirt for the event) for three laps, often only lasting no more than 90 seconds. Due to the sharp turns around the Piazza many jockeys are even thrown from the horses, but no matter, a horse can continue riding and win the race without their jockey!
During the summer months the city of Siena is filled with cultural pride and rivalry for the upcoming races. Locals will sport their neighborhood scarves featuring their colors and “mascots”. In the weeks following a race, the winning neighborhood will have drummers and flag twirlers parading through the streets of the city to show off their joy.
If you’re interested in seeing the race without a bleacher seat, there is plenty of space in the center of the piazza but get there early! The race typically begins around 6 pm with opening parades and the closing of the center area around 4 pm. For a good spot of the race, try the corners of the area where crashes can often occur.