Piazza del Campo and the Palio, Siena, Italy

Here below is the Piazza del Campo, the magnificent medieval town square. Sienese architecture is known for its distinctive tower designs and its black and white striped stone walls.

Every summer, the piazza is the site of a very unique event in Sienna: the Palio. It is a horse race tracing back to medieval times. The event takes place twice, once in July and once in August. Large amounts of soil are placed around the perimeter of the square and pressed down to make a firm dirt track. Ten horses with ten bareback jockeys go round this course 3 times. Before the race, there is an elaborate pageant with people dressed as knights and such. Each horse represents a contrada, or city ward. Each contrada comprises residents of a certain part of the city and has its own flag and songs. At the Palio, flags of all colours are flying and being waved as members of different contrade (plural) chant their songs and stared down rivals.

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The magnificent Palazzo Pubblico, technically the city hall but that seems too belittling a description, don’t you think? The 13th century Palazzo has a striking bell tower–or campanile–called the Torre del Mangia, which was built in the 14th century to rival the tallest tower of nearby rival Florence. At that time it was the tallest edifice in Italy. The Palazzo is decorated inside with amazing frescoes which are mainly secular in theme, a thing not often found in a region where so much art is religious.
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Here you see the vans coming to unload the dirt. The entire square will soon be filled with people. The area with brick is where people stand and the grey areas will become the track. 
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The pageant. The light blue and white flag belongs to the Onda (‘wave’) faction. People were filling the square and hanging out of windows, terraces and every possible space. 
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Celebratory dinner on the street

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