The Palio di Siena (known locally simply as Il Palio) is a horse race held twice each year on July 2 and August 16 in Siena, Italy, in which ten horses and riders, dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen Contrade, or city wards.
The seventeen Contrade are:
Civetta (Little Owl)
Istrice (Crested porcupine)
Lupa (Female Wolf)
Pantera (Black Panther)
Valdimontone (literally, “Valley of the Ram” – often shortened to Montone).
The race itself, in which the jockeys ride bareback, involves circling the Piazza del Campo, on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid, three times and usually last no more than 90 seconds. It is not uncommon for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza and indeed it is not unusual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys.
A magnificent pageant, the Corteo Storico, precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world.
For more information: Palio di Siena