The Palio di Siena is a horse race held twice a year in Siena, Italy, in a tradition dating back to at least 1656. Ten horses and their bareback riders, representing ten of the 17 contrade (wards) of the city, race around the dirt-covered Piazza del Campo, among wildly cheering fans. The race is preceded by a pageant and procession featuring flag wavers in medieval costume and a mounted squad of carabinieri walking the course. Thousands of spectators begin to fill the campo hours before the race begins.
Our own St. Catharine School children conduct a version of the Palio in the park behind the school every spring. The contenders race on foot, wearing homemade horse costumes and displaying the colors of one of the contrade of Siena. The whole school turns out to cheer for their favorite “horse” and jockey.
Read more about Siena’s Palio here: http://www.ilpalio.org/palioenglish.htm