Palio trials in Siena

Old Oct 30th, 2000, 09:30 AM
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Palio trials in Siena

My husband and I are taking our kids (ages 9, 12, and 15) to Italy next June/July and are considering taking them to the Palio trials in Siena. Has anyone ever been to the trials? Is it worth the trip? Difficult to see anything? Do you need to buy tickets ahead of time? I've heard the trials are less crowded than the real race. Your thoughts/advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks . . .
Old Nov 1st, 2000, 09:48 AM
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Can't someone answer this? (I cannot, but i'm sure someone knows.)
Old Nov 1st, 2000, 11:54 AM
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My wife and I attended a special millennium Palio on this past September 9. I am told the same circumstances we met are true in June/July.

Seats around the track are all reserved. You really have to know someone to get a seat. Price can run $150/250. We stood in the square for several hours during one day's trial on Thursday then stood for six hours on the big Saturday. I would not advise putting children through this grueling wait. Crowd continually builds through the afternnon till they close the square at 4 p.m. We got our place at 1 p.m. and then felt the crowd fill and move outwards from the center. There was barely standing room by the time of the race, 7 p.m.

All this being written, the two hour medieval pageant that begins at 4 p.m. is marvelous. we believe it was the event of a lifetime to witness. For adults, with some stamina and a good supply of water, it is well worth the strenuous effort. it. (We are in our 60's.)

Check with your hotel, they may be able to get you tickets. My personal physician got seats at the last minute through a contact. He paid $250 per seat.

The trials are much less interesting since they do not include the two hour pageant.

If I can provide any further information please E-Mail me.
Old Nov 1st, 2000, 01:27 PM
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I last attended the Palio Festival (whole week) 25 years ago (Jubilaeum year) in June/July. THEN, the crowds were "reasonable" on June 30th (morning) and July 1st (morning), when the 2nd and 4th trial races, are respectively run. The Prova Generale (5th trial race) is run in the afternoon of July 1st ... huge crowds!. After this trial run, everybody gathers around the streets and squares of Siena for the traditional "Palio supper" (each Contrada organizes the dinner for its "contradaioli" and guests). In the morning of June 29th there's the "tratta", event where the 10 horses that will run the race are chosen. This was also very crowded. Of course, all through race day on June 2nd it was a zoo! (a no no for kids at ground level) Finally, there were also trial runs during the night of June 27th through dawn June 28th (these are much fun, with low crowds).

Antony doesn't say if he attended the event on Thursday morning or afternoon ... but I have a feeling that crowds have build up these 25 years!

If you're in the area, visiting Siena is IMO a must. Just go there to visit the city as if it were a "normal" day (your kids will love it) ... and play it by ear. I agree with Anthony that you shouldn't put the kids through grueling waits. If you feel the situation is "friendly" go along ... otherwise do without it (trial runs are over in less than 2 minutes anyway!).

Now, if you have the chance to be there on race day, you should indeed be prepared to spend quite a bit (less or more depending on location). The Corteo Storico, as Anthony well put it, may indeed be the event of one's lifetime to witness. For tickets and further info contact

Old Nov 1st, 2000, 06:00 PM
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My sister, two college age nieces, and I attended the Palio in Siena a few years ago in August. We were in the (free) crowded plaza for several hours beore the race. The parade was fun to watch, but as race time approached, thousands of people pressed into the crowd, moving toward the fences. My sister and nieces were in about the third row from the fence, at the starting/finish line and said it was hard to breath for about 45 minutes. (They loved the experience because they actually saw the horses run.) I stayed back (about the 40th row) and was unable to see, but enjoyed being there and meeting people from different countries. The race course is not level so if you are near a high point, you can see the horses on the other side of the circular course. The girls went to one of the trials the day before and found it less crowded. With all the pagentry, it was almost like being in the Middle Ages. The city is very decorated with flags flying from almost every building. Each of the neighborhoods (contrade) has their own flag and festivities. Even the Duomo, a must see, was decorated with all the flags. While visiting the Duomo, a large procession came in, led by a drummer, and picked up the banner from the center of the church and then paraded out with it. It would be fun to watch one of the trials and then watch the race on tv. They showed it over and over. In fact, the race is so quick,just a couple of minutes, that unless you pay $250 for a seat (small grandstands with a few rows) or a window view, you get a better view on tv. The pagentry of the event and the decorated city will be wonderful memories for your family. Many people are wearing scarves representing the various contrades. We all bought a different one and had fun wearing them in Siena and elsewhere in Italy. I would definitely take children to Siena, but not watch the race from the plaza. Enjoy your trip!
Old Nov 5th, 2000, 04:01 PM
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