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Palio dell' Assunta
From: 2014.08.16 To: 2014.08.16
Twice a summer, the sun-baked central piazza in Siena turns furious with dust, color and competition in the famous Palio di Siena, a horse races that dates to the middle ages. Ten horses and riders, each adorned in the attire of one of the city's contradas (neighborhood), are chosen three days before the event from the seventeen competing neighborhoods. To rehearse the festivities, and ensure a swift victory, each neighborhood hosts an elaborate festival the day before the races. The day of, there is a magnificent pageant in the city center, bringing fire throwers, sword twirlers, loon players and fast-foot dancers, and plenty of food to recreate medieval mood. The race itself is dramatic three laps around the city square where whips are used to beat the competition, the second place finisher is considered the biggest loser, and the first horse to cross the finish line with its head ornaments intact is the winner- with or without its rider. It's magic to watch metal bound hoofs pound across the square, and indeed this is one of Italy's most exciting - and possibly most dangerous - festivals of the year. The campo becomes a twisted knot of humanity so its best to arrive in the early morning and be prepared to stand your ground. If crowds aren’t your thing then come a week early and enjoy the pre-race celebrations. Or head to the winning Contrada in October, the crowds are gone and the victors will still be celebrating. See also: Palio di Provenzano, July 2