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, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen Contrade, or city wards. The Palio held on July 2 is named Palio di Provenzano, in honour of the Madonna of Provenzano, who has a church in Siena. The Palio held on August 16 is named Palio dell’Assunta, in honour of the Assumption of Mary. The first modern palio was held in 1656.

The Siena Palio

Supporters of the Lupa (female wolf) parish shout as they leave Del Campo square with their horse held by Barbaresco Simone Perugini in preparation for the Palio horse race in Siena June 29, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Simone Perugini, Barbaresco of the Lupa, or female wolf parish leaves Del Campo square with his horse in preparation for the Palio horse race in Siena June 29, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Supporters of the Lupa, or a female wolf parish watch as their horse is washed in preparations for the Palio horse race in Siena June 29, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio
The Siena Palio

A man washes the horse of the Lupa, or female wolf parish after leaving Del Campo square in preparations for the Palio horse race in Siena June 29, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio
The Siena Palio

Tables show the respective horses and their parishes in preparation for the Palio horse race in Del Campo square in Siena June 29, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio
The Siena Palio

Andrea Mari, called Brio, jockey of Civetta (Owl) attends the first of six trial races in Del Campo square in preparation for the Palio horse race in Siena June 29, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Gigi Bruschelli (C), called Trecciolino, jockey of Pantera (panther), competes during the first of six trial races in Del Campo square in Siena June 29, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Jonathan Bartoletti, jockey of Valdimontone (Valley of the Ram), attends the first of six trial races in Del Campo square in Siena June 29, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Simone Perugini, Barbaresco of the Lupa, or female wolf parish, arrives in Del Campo square with his horse in Siena June 29, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child.
REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Giovanni Atzeni (L), called Tittia, jockey of Oca (Goose) and Jonathan Bartoletti (R), jockey of Valdimontone (Valley of the Ram), attend the first of six trial races in Del Campo square in Siena June 29, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Five of ten Barbaresco of the parish leave Del Campo square prior to start one of six trial races in Del Campo square in Siena June 29, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Ceramic souvenirs depicting the logos of 10 out of 17 parishes that will compete in the upcoming July 2 Palio race, are pictured in Del Campo square in Siena June 30, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. The July 2 race is called the Palio of Assumption of Mary. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

A Tartuca or Tortoise jockey is escorted by his supporters at the end of the second of six trial races in Del Campo square in Siena June 30, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Supporters of the Chiocciola (Snail) parish shout as their Barbaresco leave Del Campo square with their horse at the end of the second of six trial races in Siena June 30, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Barbaresco, jockey of the Civetta (Little Owl) parish, leaves his headquarters as he leads his horse, ahead of the Palio race, in Siena June 30, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (ITALY)

The Siena Palio

Gingillo, Bruco or Caterpillar jockey, competes in the second of six trial races in Siena Del Campo square with their horse in Siena June 30, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Vittorio, Lupa or a female wolf jockey, competes in the second of six trial races in Siena Del Campo square in Siena June 30, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child.
REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

A street lamp is seen hanging on Tartuca (Tortoise) territory in Siena June 30, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Chairs is seen stored over a tribune in Del Campo square in Siena June 30, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

A street lamp is seen hanging on Onda (Wave) territory in Siena June 30, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio
The Siena Palio

A street lamp is seen hanging next to a horse's statue on Civetta, or Little Owl, parish territory in Siena June 30, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child.
REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

An aerial view of Del Campo square in Siena June 30, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

An view of Del Campo square and the bell tower Torre del Mangia, in Siena June 30, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Supporters of Istrice (Crested Porcupine) chat as they attend the second of six trial races in Siena Del Campo square in Siena June 30, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

A street lamp is seen hanging on Chiocciola (Snail) territory in Siena June 30, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Jockey Giovanni Atzeni of Oca (Goose) parish falls from his horse Mississippi, during a trial race at Del Campo square in Siena July 1, 2011. Almost every year without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders will compete bareback on July 2 and August 16, around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Augusto Mattioli

The Siena Palio

Jockey Giovanni Atzeni (R) of Oca (Goose) parish falls from his horse Mississippi, during a trial race at Del Campo square in Siena July 1, 2011. Almost every year without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders will compete bareback on July 2 and August 16, around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Augusto Mattioli

The Siena Palio

A horse of the Lupa, or a female wolf, parish is lead by the Barbaresco at the end of their trial races in Siena Del Campo square in Siena July 1, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

The horse, named Messi (R), of Chiocciola (snail) parish, is cared for by the Barbaresco before the trial races in Siena Del Campo square in Siena June 30, 2011. Messi, the horse, died on July 1during the trial race in an accident. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. Picture taken 30 June 2011. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

A dinner is held the night before the Siena's famous Palio horse race in the parish of Civetta (Little Owl), July 1, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child.
REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

A dinner is held the night before the Siena's famous Palio horse race in the parish of Civetta (Little Owl), July 1, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child.
REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Jockey Giovanni Atzeni (L) of the Oca (Goose) parish passes as jockey Giuseppe Zedde of Bruco (Caterpillar), falls from his horse during the Palio horse race in Siena July 2, 2011. Jockey Atzeni of the Oca parish won the Palio horse race. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Jockey Giuseppe Zedde of Bruco (caterpillar) parish, falls from his horse during the Palio horse race in Siena July 2, 2011. Jockey Atzeni of the Oca parish won the Palio horse race. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Jockey Giuseppe Zedde (R) of Bruco (caterpillar) parish, is rescued after falling from his horse during the Palio horse race in Siena July 2, 2011. Jockey Atzeni of the Oca parish won the Palio horse race. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Jockey Giovanni Atzeni of the Oca (Goose) parish is celebrated by his supporters after winning the Palio horse race in Siena July 2, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Oca (Goose) parish supporters celebrate after winning the Palio horse race in Siena July 2, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Jockey Giovanni Atzeni (R) of the Oca (Goose) parish kisses a cross as Atzeni and his horse, Mississipi, before taking part in the Palio horse race in Siena July 2, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

Mississipi, a horse belonging to jockey Giovanni Atzeni (R) of the Oca (Goose) parish, is blessed by a priest before taking part in the Palio horse race in Siena July 2, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Siena Palio

A horse is prepared for the parade in the Oca (Goose) parish before the Palio horse race in Siena July 2, 2011. Every year on July 2 and August 16, almost without fail since the mid-1600s, 10 riders compete bareback around Siena's shell-shaped central square in a bid to win the Palio, a silk banner depicting the Madonna and child.
REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi