A maddening, twice-annual horse race held in Siena's public square, the Palio is less a sport than it is a game--one that involves a combination of bare-back riding skills, human deal-making, and a large dose of fate. The 90-second race and the rituals that surround it have continued largely uninterrupted since the 1500s, serving as the primary source of identity for the city's 17 neighborhoods, or contrade. The Palio can therefore confuse short-term visitors who see little more than an afternoon of pageantry followed by three laps of ferocious racing. Living the Palio thus provides a freshly upbeat and accessible introduction to Siena's centuries-old festival, along with the intriguing cultural traditions that underlie it.
Join Thomas Paradis on an amusing, instructional romp as he weaves witty stories of personal discovery with a peak into Siena's little-known customs.