The Secret of Palio di Siena

The ancient Palio di Siena is held twice per year, one in July and one in August.

Few days before each race there is a draw for horses and Jockeys in order to be assigned to each contrada.

Once the horse is assigned to the contrada, the animals turn into sacred divinities and the people of contrada take the horse into the local church to be blessed by the local priest.

How about the jockeys? The contrada’s Jockey attends the blessing but is broadly considered as a mercenary ready to betray the people. Between Horse and Jockey there is only one difference: Horse is loyal. Jockey is not.

Indeed, the Palio is so entertaining because there are several tricks, hidden contacts, shameless agreements. The Jockeys are often up to accept (real) money to defeat or to help other Jockyes to militate against others.

People from Siena are certainly aware of this hidden network, but all the contradas want to have a jockey who plays, even dirty, but in order to achieve the victory.

How that can be possible? In the exact time when the jockey is assigned to the contrada, the people from contrada will take care about him. I mean literally, he lives the days before the Palio with the contradaioli (contrada’s people), and there are a few appointed to watch him 24 hours. In addition, they seized the phone because he must have no communication with the rest of the world.

However, Jockeys are always able to organise and bargain the agreements and shady trades.

How is it possible?

A day before the race there is always a warm up. In this occasion, the jockeys are free to communicate each other. Or even the few minutes before the starting, the horses should be aligned behind a rope in order to get the race started…et voilà. In front of thousands of people standing in piazza del campo and millions of people around the world watching the broadcast, the agreements are bargained and often they reach deals for thousands and thousands of euros.

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