Siena welcomes return of Palio horse race after two years

Palio was cancelled for last two years due to pandemic.

The historic Palio di Siena horse race returns on Saturday 2 July after being cancelled for the last two years due to Italy’s covid restrictions.

The bareback race, which takes place in the heart of the Tuscan city of Siena, was called off in 2020 – for the first time since world war two – and again last year.

The Palio dates back to the 17th century and is traditionally held on two dates, 2 July and 16 August, with the colourful spectacle attracting tens of thousands of spectators.

Photo credit: M. Rohana /

The event sees riders and horses race three laps around Piazza del Campo, Siena’s central mediaeval square, in a fiercely-contested competition between 10 of the city’s 17 rival contrade or neighbourhoods.

The contrade competing in Saturday’s race are Valdimontone, Civetta, Leocorno, Torre, Istrice, Drago, Bruco, Pantera, Lupa and Chiocciola.

Piazza del Campo for Palio di Siena

Apart from the last two years, the race has rarely been cancelled over the centuries, notably in 1855 due to a deadly outbreak of cholera.

In recent years the Palio has been the subject of protest from animal rights activists who claim that horses endure suffering during the event.

The race begins in the early evening of Saturday and will be broadcast live on Italian television network La7 from 17.30.

Cover photo: Migel /