The horse race in the Tuscan city of Siena is quite unlike any other in the world.
The Palio, as it’s called, is a colourful and enthralling spectacle that takes place in the Piazza del Campo on two days in the summer – July 2nd and August 16th.
Bareback riders representing Siena’s seventeen contrade (city neighbourhoods) have to make three circuits of the square. This generally lasts only about ninety seconds, but the rivalry is intense and the racing fast, furious and dangerous.
The build-up to the races has been given extra spice this year because a group of feminists have mounted a legal challenge against one contrade which, by tradition, has never allowed women to take any part in the organisation of its team.
The main event is preceded by elaborate pageantry, which includes traditional flag-throwing. The best places to see the action are on well-placed balconies; failing that, you’ll need to be there very early to secure a ringside seat.
Luxique can offer you a choice of three fine luxury hotels for your stay in Siena - the Certosa di Maggiano, the Relais La Suvera and the Fonteverde Spa and Hotel. This last one, voted in 2007 one of the best spa hotels in Europe, was once a holiday villa for the wealthy and influential Medici family.
by Andy Moreton