The dramatic Palio horse race, held biannually in the lovely Tuscan city of Siena, is one of Italy's most loved and historic sports events. Thousands of fans from all over Italy squeeze into the Piazza del Campo to watch the race and cheer on the horses, but no one gets more excited about the Palio than the Sienese themselves, for whom the Palio is not just a race but an identity. The colorful race is a perfect window for kids into Sienese and Tuscan traditions and culture. The Palio started over 350 years ago, and contemporary life throughout the year still tends to revolve around preparations and loyalty to the seventeen contrade, the historic neighborhoods of the Palio race that go head-to-head twice a year.
The complicated rules and maze of traditions can successfully be untangled only by a native Sienese - thus, our docent for the day will be a proud member of the Torre contrada. During our three-hour walk, we will wander through the Piazza del Campo, where all the action takes place. We will then visit various contrade, exploring their individual and unique traditions and significant places, including their meeting houses, museums and the fountain where the children of the contrade are symbolically baptised. Every contrada is symbolized by an animal - children will enjoy picking their favorite among the snail, owl, giraffe and unicorn. Finally, we'll drive out to see the Torre horse that has actually won the Palio!