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Reserve tickets for the Siena Palio

The Siena Palio - history and visitor information

The Siena Palio is very much not some quaint traditional ceremony that survives to put pictures on postcards and to please the tourists. The residents of Wimbledon may head off for a fortnight in the sun when the tennis is on, and you'll not find packs of locals enthusing about how great the Edinburgh Festival is, but for a Sienese to not get involved in the Palio would likely see them cut out of the family inheritance. Your Contrada is your second family, your loyalty to your flag, to your history and to your horse and rider is reinforced from birth, and passions run very deep for all things Palio. There used to be almost 60 Contrade, now there are 17, ten of which compete each year. The ten are made up of the seven that did not run the previous year, plus three drawn by lot.

Historical images of the Siena Palio

The Palio has its origins in medieval times, evolving from the buffalo and then donkey races that filled the entertainment gap caused by the banning of bull fighting. Initially held in July only, the first modern Palio was run in 1656. The August edition began in 1701 and became a permanent feature in 1802 when the city of Siena officially took over the management and running of the event. The riders still ride bareback, around a Piazza del Campo packed to the gunwales with spectators, the horses racing around a track of earth laid for the occasion.

The races themselves are over in a blur, but it is the before and after atmosphere, the 24 hour celebrations, the colour, the music, the costumes and pageantry that all come together to fire the senses of locals and visitors.

Below are two shots showing you the area - the San Martino curve - from where you'll be viewing the race itself.

The Siena Palio from above

We offer various 'packages' for a taste of Siena at Palio time - a visit to the Palio itself, preceded by the various ceremonies; a visit to the day before pre-race trial and other packages that simply combine the first two. You may - availability permitting - opt to view the race from the 'bleacher' style seating lining the piazza, or from the terrace of one of the historic buildings that ring the piazza, and for the Palio or pre-Palio packages you may opt to join in the lively post-event dinner.


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Coronavirus in Italy

Due to Coronavirus many venues and events are applying strict entry conditions. These will vary by venue but common examples are:

  • In compliance with the Ministerial Order of April 28th 2022 on new measures concerning personal respiratory protection equipment, from the 1st of May until  the 15th of June 2022:
    Cultural sites: the use of a face mask is recommended during visits to cultural sites.
    Performances: FFP2 type equipment must be worn in the case of performances open to the public and taking place indoors in theatres, museums and concert halls, cinemas, entertainment and live music venues and other similar premises.
  • Hands (or gloves) must be cleaned with a disinfectant gel on entry.
  • Your temperature (which will be measured on entry) must not be above 37.5°C.
  • Visitors must maintain a social distance of 1.8m at all times.
  • There may be a maximum visitor limit in place - in some cases this may lead to delays

Any conditions may be changed without notice as Italian regulations are updated.

If you are denied entrance because of failure to meet entry conditions, no refunds will be available.