palio race italy horses running Experience One of Italy's Most Famous Traditions - EAT LOVE SAVOR International Luxury Lifestyle Magazine
Luxury Travel

Experience One of Italy’s Most Famous Traditions


One event that’s been on my bucket list for a long time is the Palio di Siena, a centuries-old ritual that takes place in the heart of the picturesque medieval Italian town of Siena.

This horse race set within Siena’s Piazza del Campo is so much more than the 75 seconds or so of breakneck, bareback racing around an oval course surrounded by mediaeval and renaissance buildings. The Palio is an expression of the city’s history, the passion of its citizens and the rich Tuscan region of which it is a part.

palio-ridersAs I checked this event off my to-do list recently, I learned that the way to truly experience Palio is to incorporate all of these elements into an unforgettable trip and my friends at Palio Tours were invaluable in providing everything needed.

Get an Insiders View Palio: An Ancient Territorial Ritual

Luxury Renaissance Accommodations Enhance the Experience

Accommodations are an important part of your Palio experience and the team at Palio Tours have several options to offer. I chose a luxurious suite at Siena’s Grand Hotel Continental. This beautiful Renaissance property is filled with original frescoes, priceless artworks, antique furnishings and detailed carvings. Every suite is sumptuously furnished and provided the feeling of stepping back in time.

grand-hotel-intercontinental-exterior-italyImmerse Yourself in the Tuscan Experience

To truly experience Palio, you must have a sense of the city and the region of which it is a part. Immersing myself in the life of Siena and the surrounding Tuscan countryside was easy with the options Palio Tours offers. To better appreciate the cuisine of the Tuscan region, I was able to attend a cooking class taught by a local chef, making my own pasta and enjoying it with a typical Tuscan sauce. Another special experience a visit to one of the region’s most famous vineyards, Felsina. Palio Tours arranged a tour of the winery, including a visit to the old stone cellars and a delicious meal and wine tasting.


An Event Steeped in Heritage and Tradition

As the Palio nears, the excitement in the city of Siena reaches a fevered pitch. On the night before the race, each of the Contrada, or districts of the city hosts a dinner for its residents. Plenty of food and wine fuel a celebration that lasts into the night. Since each district will run a horse in the upcoming race, passions run high as citizens anticipate the possibility of victory on the coming day. I was fortunate enough to attend the celebration in the Contrada della Pantera and learned that being part of a Contrada helps citizens and visitors alike relate to the city and its heritage.


Rich Pageantry and an Experience of a Lifetime

The pageantry of the Palio is unsurpassed and I was surprised to find that the ceremonial blessing of the horses actually includes bringing each horse into the church to be blessed. Viewing the race from within the center of the Piazza is an option but here is one more example of how Palio Tours takes the experience to the next level. I was provided with an unparalleled view of the race, the crowd and the Piazza del Campo itself from the window of a private apartment reserved for guests of Palio Tours. Viewing the race for this ideal vantage point was the crowning jewel of this unforgettable experience. The race lasted around 75 seconds but the memories of my time in Siena will last a lifetime.

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A native Scotsman, Richard Crawford grew up with an innate respect for heritage and appreciation for tradition. As a child, he became increasingly interested in culture and history and could often be found at the local airport where he would sit for hours, fascinated by the travelers, captivated by their sophistication and curious about their backgrounds. As an adult, Crawford relishes the opportunity to travel and experience the world firsthand, and never misses an opportunity to share his stories of adventures with others. In 2005, Crawford became the United States Ambassador to The Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whisky, and his dream became a career.