Siena’s Palio is an enormous event, held twice every summer, and while it certainly draws a fair number of tourists each year it is by no means a tourist event. The residents of Siena would have their celebration and horse race whether anyone from outside the city came or not. Frankly, they’d probably prefer it if they could just have their festival and be left well enough alone – although we all know how likely that is.
The first Palio of the year was held on July 2nd, and it was something of a photo-finish. Instead of one clear victor whose contrada immediately could begin the party which would last until the next Palio (August 16th), the contrada which had been winning the whole race was caught on the finish line by another horse. The result was the victory was first awarded to one horse, then the other, and then finally back to the first one again. One can only imagine the grudge the residents of the losing contrada will have until they’re vindicated…
At any rate, this year’s victor was the Contrada dell’Oca, or the Neighborhood of the Goose. There is a collection of links about the July event here (in Italian); to see pictures, click on the links under the words “Gallerie d’immagini” – the video links are the next batch down the page. This video shows the entire race (including one horse and rider falling, which is always hard to watch), and a slow-motion replay of the photo-finish, too. Even if you don’t speak Italian, you’ll hear the announcer yelling, “OCA!” throughout the race – because the horse was in the lead basically the entire time.
Photo by: Giovanni Pevero