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Experiencing the Palio di Siena with Palio Tours
September 11, 2016
The Palio is a horse race that is rich in history and ceremony, held in the large piazza in the center of Siena for hundreds of years. Each district, or Contrada, of Siena is represented by one of the horses in the race and the speed and danger of the race through the Piazza del Campo make the Palio an exciting spectacle, fueled by the passion of the assembled citizens hoping to see their Contrada take the victory. This isn't just a race, it's a window into the culture of the city and that's why I was thrilled to be able to experience the Palio with the help of Palio Tours, a tour company that knows the area well and has thought of everything to create a truly memorable tip.
Palio Tours provides a well thought-out selection of activities and experiences to help the traveler make the most of their time visiting Siena during the Palio. In addition to arranging first-class accommodations like those I chose at Siena's Grand Hotel Continental, a truly opulent Renaissance era property that has lost none of its 17th century elegance, Palio Tours also arranges special tours and cultural experiences to broaden the traveler's understanding of the city and the region. I enjoyed taking part in a cooking class in which a local chef taught us how to make an entire four-course Tuscan meal, including making our own pasta.
Another highlight of my trip was having the chance to visit the celebrated Felsina winery near Siena in the Tuscan countryside. There, our group was able to tour the old stone wine cellars and learn about how the wine is made. No winery tour would be complete without a tasting and at Felsina we enjoyed a delicious meal along with the tasting. This look at an important and ancient industry of the region provided yet another insight into the culture and traditions of the area.
Of course the centerpiece of my trip was the Palio itself and I soon learned that the experience goes far beyond just the exhilarating race. The pageantry begins with a night of feasting in which each Contrada holds an elaborate open-air party the night before the Palio, bringing the community together in anticipation of the big event. Since belonging to a Contrada is an essential part of what makes a citizen of Siena feel connected to the city as well as to the Palio, I was eager to join the people of the Contrada della Pantera for their feast and for another important ceremony, the blessing of the horse in a local church.
Through the magic of Palio Tours, I was able to view the Palio from what I consider to be the best vantage point possible, a private apartment overlooking all of the action in the Piazza del Campo. As the horses raced at breakneck speed around the square below to the roar of the crowd, I was able to enjoy every detail and really feel like a part of the whole event.
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