Siena Palio – which contradas are racing on 2nd July 2016?

The Siena Palio horserace in Tuscany is world famous. It runs twice a year – once in July and once in August – and attracts around 40,000 spectators to the Piazza del Campo. There’s just one problem; the track round the Campo is only big enough for 10 horses to race, but Siena has 17 contradas or districts all keen to compete. The solution is simple; a draw to decide which contradas are racing on 2nd July 2016. So let’s have a look at who will be on the starting line. See the footnote for the winner……!

siena palio

Siena’s famous Palio horse race draws over 40,000 spectators and lasts just 90 seconds

L’Estrazione – Selecting the contradas to run the Siena Palio

The estrazione or draw takes place at 7pm on the last Sunday in May (for July’s Palio) in Siena’s fabulous Palazzo Pubblico Town Hall. (The draw for August’s Palio is held no later than the second Sunday in July).

Siena Palio

The Mayor and the captains of all 17 contradas attend the ceremony inside whilst the crowds of anxious contradaioli citizens wait outside for news.

And for those whose contrada has been the longest without victory, known as the Nonna or Grandma of the Palio, this is certainly a key moment to see whether they’ll have a chance to race again. But there’s more than one step to the draw, so they have to be patient!

Siena Palio

Each contrada processes through the city in the run up to the Palio

First, seventeen coloured balls representing each of the contradas are placed in an urn to mix up the balls and the Mayor selects 10 balls in succession. Is that it?!

Well no, actually the first 10 contradas are not runners for the Palio – that would be a bit of an anticlimax wouldn’t it?! This is just to select the 10 contrada captains who will then select the Palio participants!

The 7 contradas that didn’t compete in 2015 get an automatic pass to this year’s Palio and each is drawn in turn and announced with trumpets. The contrada’s flag is then flown from a window on the first floor of the Town Hall so that the waiting contradaioli citizens know who has been picked.

Siena Palio

Past years – Valdimonte and Chiocciola flags being flown from a previous estrazione

And then on to the final stage of the estrazione.

The 10 remaining contradas that have not yet been picked are placed in an urn and the captains pick the 3 final competitors for the horserace to great fanfare! And again, their flags are flown outside the town hall to huge cheers!

By the end of the estrazione 10 fabulously fluttering flags should be flying outside the Palazzo Communale. Its a fabulous sight and marks the start of the countdown to the Palio.

Which contradas are racing on 2nd July 2016?

So now we know how the draw works, who will be racing? The 7 contradas with a guaranteed place at the starting line on 2nd July 2016 are –

  • Bruco – Caterpillar
  • Lupa – Wolf
  • Drago – Dragon
  • Giraffa – Giraffe
  • Chiocciola – Snail
  • Aquila – Eagle
  • Istrice – Porcupine

And the final 3 contradas joining them are….drum roll please…..

  • Tartuca – Tortoise
  • Oca – Goose
  • Nicchio – Seashell
Siena palio flags

Each of the 17 contradas in Siena has its own flag, symbol and colours

What’s next in the preparations for the Palio?

There’s plenty of preparation still to happen before the Palio actually takes place!

The horses that will compete have yet to be selected. The contrada captains will whittle the selection down to 10 closer to the Palio. But they don’t get to choose their own horse as horses are assigned by another draw on 29th June. You’ve just got to keep your fingers crossed that you get a good one!!

Siena Palio

In the meantime, the next few weeks will see the city come to life! Each Sunday a contrada processes through the city, flags flying and drums pounding. The streets are decorated with bright lanterns and multicoloured flags. And ceremonial dinners within each contrada will be held in the run up to the big day. You’ll be able to feel the build up if you’re visiting Siena!

Siena Palio – which contradas are racing on 2nd July 2016?

The streets of Siena are decked out with flags and lanterns

There’s just one question left – who will you be supporting? Leave me a comment with your favourite Italian festival and in the meantime on your marks, get set, g-g-g-g-goooooooooo!!!!

And the winner of the Palio di Siena 2nd July 2016 is……

La Lupa!!! Well done to Lupa, the wolf and the Nonna of the Palio – i.e. the contrada that had gone the longest time without a win – a full 27 years in Lupa’s case! Their horse Penelope just pipped Drago and Nicchio to the post at the last turn in a fabulously exciting final lap. L’Aquila now becomes the Nonna, desperate for a win! Well done all round to Lupa and may the celebrations continue long into the night……!!!

Useful Palio information

Assignment of horses to the contradas – 29th June. The ceremonial draw takes place in the Piazza del Campo and is open to the public, just don’t get too close to the horses in case you scare them!

Palio della Madonna di Provenzano – 2nd July
Palio dell’Assunta – 16th August

Tickets can be booked via various agencies depending on whether you want seats on the bleachers or balconies.

For balcony seats click here
For bleachers click here 
Entry to the middle of the Piazza del Campo to stand is free

Schedule of the Palii here

TV coverage – Rai2 transmit live from the Palio from 6pm in both July and August.

Arriving in Siena information here

Film & Book – A fabulous new film about the Palio was released in Autumn 2015. If you are interested in Siena, horse racing or both you need to watch it, its fascinating and gripping! Details here

A Hole In My Shoe

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18 Responses to Siena Palio – which contradas are racing on 2nd July 2016?

  1. Luca Marchiori says:

    Thank you for this lovely post. The pictures are beautiful! The Palio di Siena is the most famous, but these medieval sport festivals happen all over Tuscany. In my small corner we have three: La Giostra del Saraceno (horseback jousting) in Arezzo, the Palio della Balestra (crossbow) in Sansepolcro and the Palio della Vittoria (a foot race up a steep hill) in Anghiari. The Palio della Vittoria is on the 29 June each year. Here are some photos from last years:

    • Thanks for your wonderful comments Luca and for the link too! I have included all 3 festivals in my What’s on in Italy in June post but would love to link through to your piece on the Palio della Vittoria if you don’t mind?? And if there are any other festivals that I’ve missed I’d love to hear about them as I absolutely love Italian culture and heritage! In the meantime, keep your fabulous posts coming, as I love to read up on Tuscan life through your eyes! Thanks again! Grazie mille!

      • Luca Marchiori says:

        No problem at all and of course you can link through to the piece on the Palio della Vittoria. The other one that springs to mind immediately is the Calcio Storico in Florence, a medieval style football match. Thanks for your lovely comments too!

      • Yep, I’ve included that in the What’s On in Italy in June post too as it looks spectacular!! And I’ve linked through to both your post and your homepage with huge thanks! Here’s my What’s On post – I hope I’ve got the details right!! :o) Grazie tango!

  2. Luca Marchiori says:

    … which I notice you have, of course, included in your wonderful round up article! Thanks!

    • Thank you for mentioning it though as I’m trying to capture as much of What’s On as possible (without the list going on for ever!!!) There just aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week to keep up with it all are there!!! Loving your Zuppa Inglese recipe by the way…..its making me hungry!! ;o)

  3. corinnevail says:

    What color and pageantry! This looks like something that I would love to do. Unfortunately it won’t be this year, maybe next year…

    • It is the most fabulous historical pageant I’ve ever seen – a truly unique experience and well worth a trip if you ever do get the chance!! Even if you don’t go into the Campo to watch the race in person the city is extremely vibrant for days before the race so you still get the atmosphere! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!!! :o)

  4. I ABSOLUTELY want to see the Siena Palio!!! I read an interesting Travel Chick-Lit booked a while ago called Juliet by Anne Fortier and it took place in Siena! Now I’m dying to go! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Thanks for your great comments and I really hope you make it to the Palio one day! It is the most exciting, exhilarating and unique experience I’ve ever had and I’m sure it will live up to your expectations!! Happy travels!!

      • Well actually last night we decided to make Siena part of our honeymoon trip for next June! Not entirely sure when the Palio is but at least I’m going to Siena! 🙂

      • How fantastic!!! Congratulations!!! The Palio runs twice a year on 2nd July and 16th August – its the same date each year – so hopefully you’ll be able to see it! But even if you don’t see the actual horse race, the city is bedecked in flags and lanterns for much of the summer from around late May to just after the second Palio (I think) so you will still experience some of the atmosphere etc! I’ve posted on Siena quite a bit (just search Siena in the search box) so hopefully you will have a great idea of the city before you arrive! I hope you have a fabulous wedding and a fantastic honeymoon!! Best wishes!

  5. galanda23 says:

    It seems you were lucky to be in Siena during the Palio. We missed it by a couple of months last year, but I’d love to be there during one these races. Great pictures of the flags!

    • Siena is a wonderful place outside the Palio season too but if you ever get the chance to go back during the summer there a fabulous atmosphere in the city! Thanks for your lovely comments and happy travels!! :o)

  6. Debra Discher says:

    Hello! Do we know yet which Contradas will race in the Siena Palio on August 2, 2016? GRAZIA for your reply! 🙂

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