At BICI ITALIA, while we love just about every city in Italy, Siena holds a special place in our heart for many reasons. First and foremost, we believe it has the best piazza in all of Italy. Second, there is a special culture deeply embedded in this city. Siena is more than a ‘city’. It is home to seventeen districts or 'contrada’ that have existed for over 800 years.
Each contrada is a truly unique unit defined by a distinct geographical location within the city. Each has it’s own flag, seat of government, church, museum, patron saint, motto, song and so on. Every stage and occasion of a individual’s -or 'contradaioli’s’- life is celebrated by and with their contrada, making the contrada a pride-filled and loyal extended family. But what we find so fascinating is that this structure keeps generations in contact.
“You people of Siena have a precious thing, and its unique how in the conflict between your districts there lies your union. All the world is flaking away, but there you are with the aliveness of these rites and with your loyalty to the centuries. I believe you are the only example in Italy. There’s a sort of mysterious cord between you and the Sienese of every other age. It’s beautiful, very beautiful.” – Federico Fellini
Siena rites and loyalty to the century manifest itself every year in the Palio. The origins of the Palio date back to the 12th Century making it the world’s oldest competitive event. Held every year in July and August in the piazza or il campo, the event is far more than a 'horse race’. It is politics, competition, strategy, teamwork, and battle of wills that spans an entire year yet culminates in the horse race.
In the Palio, ten jockeys, each hired by a contrada, race bare back on a dirt track in il campo - and anything goes as long as you win. It is not uncommon for the horses to finish the race without a jockey - and the horse can still win!
The winner of the Palio does more than win the race, it impacts the history of Siena and all it’s people.
The August 2017 edition of the race includes our good friends in the Snail contrada - or Chiocciola - and we will be cheering for them…and as such routing against their rival the Tortoise - or Tartuca.
In bocca al lupo a tutti!
In 2017, BICI ITALIA will be hosting a very special cycling and cultural trip centered around the Palio. It will include special entry to events leading up to the event. As this will be an elite trip, space is limited. Contact us today to hold your reservation!