The Kentucky Derby is Nothing Compared to This!

If America has the Kentucky derby as their main horse racing event then Italy has the Palio di Siena. It is Italy’s most famous horse race and is held two times a year. In fact, it is probably more important or prestigious than the Kentucky derby as it is the oldest horse race in the world, and is more important to the locals of Siena.

The Palio is run to celebrate the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary near the old houses that belonged to Provenzano Salvani. The apparition was called Madonna di Provenzano, which the first Palio was honouring.

The race involves 10 riders that each represent a city neighbourhood, though not all are represented in order to make it fair, as there are 17 wards in total. The seven neighbourhoods that did not take part in the month of the previous year are automatically added, and then three more are added by draw. The draw occurs twice a year at the end of May and the Beginning of July. They all wear colours of their neighbourhood. The Palio di Siena is where people the of Siena show their pride and passion, there are alliances and rivalries.

The race consists of three complete laps of the Piazza del Campo on which thick dirt is laid. The jockeys ride bareback, so you shouldn’t be surprised to see anyone thrown off their horses and horses finishing without a rider, and funnily enough The Palio can be won by an unmounted horse. Races generally last about 90 seconds.

Recently though, there has been a split decision in whether it should still be held. The Italian Minister of Tourism had this to say: There are too many events, too many legacies that include the exploitation of animals. If Catalonia has renounced bullfight, we can cancel some Palio,That is just one of the reasons why people are against the Palios, another reason can be because some people feel that the horses are victims of abuse – they suffer not only physical but verbal abuse, especially as some people are so passionate about this traditional race. Earlier this year it was exposed that eight horses were under the suspicion of doping but they weren’t used for the race.

There is also another celebration that is similar to the main one in San Giuseppe and is a variation of the Palios di Siena called the ‘Palio dei Somari’. The twist with this is that they use donkeys rather than horses and it isn’t exactly as important as the main one. It is fairly new as it only began in 1966, and while it isn’t considered as important as the Palios di Siena there are still high emotions and a sense of competitiveness.

Siena is a fantastic city where you will find brilliant Tuscany villas, it really is a beautiful medieval city. There is loads to do in this city as it has many attractions, such as historic buildings or you could go and visit the local football team that plays in the Serie A.

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