Frequently Asked Questions
Please give me details of the reservation options for the Palio.
Information on our Hotel/Ticket Package can be found here: Palio Ticket Packages.
What is included in the hotel/ticket package?
The Palio Ticket package includes: 3, 4 or 5 night accommodations of your choice with Palio Tickets for the respective race (July 2nd or August 16th), the historical parade that precedes the race, reservations to a Contrada dinner (night before the race) and our exclusive City/Contrada Museum tour, plus On-Site support (which includes information regarding the horse blessing, how to arrive to Siena, and restaurant suggestions). Additional hotel nights can be added. Tickets to the trial races and the assignment of the horses (Tratta) are not included in the Base Package, but can be added. Their cost is extra (cost details below).
What is included in the Borgo Scopeto 5-night package?
The special Days of the Palio Ticket package includes: 5 nights accommodations at Borgo Scopeto, plus your choice of Palio Tickets for the respective race (July 2nd or August 16th); the historical parade that precedes the race, opportunity to witness the horse assignments, view a trial race, reservations to a Contrada dinner (night before the race) and our exclusive City/Contrada Museum tour. It also includes a Chianti Winery tour (with lunch) and all the transfers to/from Siena (according to the daily schedule), a welcome dinner at the Borgo, plus our On-Site support. Transfers and the transportation provided with this package is exclusive for our Borgo Scopeto clients. The package begins June 28 (for the July Palio) or August 12 (for the August Palio).
Where is the race run for the Palio in Siena?
Since the mid 1600s the Palio di Siena has been run in the city's famous city 'square', Piazza del Campo. The piazza is not in a typical square or rectangular shape, but more in the shape of sea shell, curved at the top, flat on the bottom. The race is run (3 laps) in a clockwise direction around the piazza on the clay "track" that is layed down in the campo a few days before the race.
Tell us more about the balcony positions?
For balconies we offer both seated as well as standing positions. Typically the seats are in the form or individual chairs or in some cases benches and are placed in front of a step-up bench used for the standing positions. With either ticket (seated or standing) the positions are assigned - in other words if you decide to leave your position and for instance step inside the adjoining apartment or shop you will not loose your position on the balcony to someone else.
Is it possible to have a private balcony or window?
Yes - Balconies or individual windows can be reserved for private use; naturally it depends on the size of your group. Please contact us with any custom requests.
Do any of the Siena hotels have a direct view of the campo?
No. There are no hotels in Siena that ovelook the campo.
What ticket options are available in the package?
Reserved tickets for the Palio and the historic parade that precedes it, come in 3 categories - 1) balcony (located on the buildings that surround the campo) offering seated or standing positions; 2) windows in the same buildings that surround and overlook the campo; and 3) grandstand seats (bleachers or 'palco' as they are called) - which are located at ground level on the perimeter of the race track and in front of the buildings that surround the track area.
Our tickets are in the shaded sections of the campo. A visual of the 4 descriptive ticket locations in the campo can be seen here: Piazza del Campo per Palio. Our tickets are offered at the Start/Finish Line - Mossa, or short distances away from the start line at either Fonte Gaia or Casato. We have reserved Grandstand seats and Balcony seats (or balcony standing positions) in each of these 3 ticket locations and also a balcony in at San Martino curve. We also have private window options to offer for Palio Tickets; these are located in the Mossa, Fonte Gaia or Casato. For Trial Race tickets we have our exclusive apartment/windows in the Casato, overlooking the campo.
Are the Palio Tours tickets located in the shaded areas of the campo?
Yes, our grandstand tickets are in the shaded areas of the campo, as are most of the balcony with exception for the balcony in San Martino. For more details on ticket locations read the question/answer above.
From the Grandstands are we able to see to the far side as the race as it moves around the track?
Yes, given the campo has a natural downward slope (going away from the grandstands towards the Torre del Mangia) you are able to see the race and the action as it moves around to the far side for the 3 laps it takes to complete.
Is there access to restrooms?
Our Balcony and Window locations provide access to a restroom; directly in the adjoining space, just outside the space or we appoint one of the nearby bars to provide this amenity, specifically for our clients. The Grandstands (which represent approximately 80% of all reserved tickets) do not provide access to a restroom, as the restaurants and bars in the buildings behind the grandstand seating are not open during the time of the Palio; only before and after the time of the parade/race are they open for business. We trust for those not familiar with Siena, that they can appreciate Piazza del Campo (where the race is run) is not a modern sport facility. It was created some 300 years prior to the first race ever run there (circa 1650), so it was never invisioned or designed with a horse race in mind (or with restroom facilities). However, we feel in part, this is what makes the Palio in Siena so unique.
Tell us more about the hotels or other accommodation options?
Our base package (3 nights) provides a choice of 3, 4 or 5 star hotels in Siena. More hotel information is provided on the following webpage - Siena Hotels. Our Days of the Palio Tour package offers 5 nights with a special hotel property (Borgo Scopeto), which is located just outside of Siena, in the Chianti region. Additional accommodation options include Tuscan Villas outside of Siena that can be rented during the week of the Palio. Please ask us for details on these options. In general, the few apartments that may overlook the campo are NOT rented for overnight stays during the Palio. They are only offered for the purpose of selling tickets for the trial races and the final race where ticket holders can then watch the race from the windows or balconies of the apartment. We do, however, have one exception. Details of this apartment are found here: Apartment via di Citta'. In addition, we do have other select apartments in other areas of the historical city that can be included as part of a Palio package.
Is there a reason to stay in Siena for more than the 3 nights?
Yes. The Palio festival, in both July and August, is actually over 4 days. The first day of each festival is devoted to the selection and random assignment of the horses (Tratta) to the 10 Contrade. This activity takes place in Piazza del Campo between noon and 1:30pm on either the 29th of June (July race) or August 13th (August race). Later, in the evening, the first trial race (Prova) is held. Since horses who may have won previous Palio can be in the lot of 10 horses, their assignment to a particular Contrada is considered a great start to the festival for those Contrada who are so fortunate - even without such fortune, the excitement and or emotions of the Contrada members are on full display in the campo for all to see during this critical moment.
What happens if it rains?
If there is rain on the day of the Palio (July 2nd or August 16), making the track conditions not suitable to run the race, then the race will be rescheduled for the next day (July 3rd or August 17) or even the day after if necessary. Your tickets, are good for the race whichever day it is run. Unfortuantely there are are no refunds if you are not able to stay over for the rescheduled race. Tickets for a respective Trial Race can be honored on the monrning or evening race the day after a cancellation, subject to availabilities. Tickets for the Contrada Dinner are not refundable if the activity is cancelled due to bad weather conditions or otherwise cancelled by the respective Contrada, since this activity cannot be rescheduled.
Will there be someone in Siena to assist us?
Our tour director and other company personnel will be in Siena for the Palio. They are available to answer any questions you may have during your visit to Siena. Please note, however, Our Palio Special Event Package, ("Package") is NOT an Escorted Group Tour. The Package is a combination of services and products designed for independent travelers that wish to enjoy the freedom of an un-escorted trip, but with the convenience and value of a package price. Our clients do come together for the City Tour and the Contrada Dinner. As well for the options of the Cooking Class and or the Chianti Wine tour. The Package does not include transportation, transfers, tour escort (other than on guided Siena City Tour), or any services not explicitly listed on the invoice provided to you for your reservation. If you wish to have such additional services, please let us know as they can be added to any Package reservation.
If we cannot make our trip, what is the cancellation / refund policy policy?
Palio Tickets are non-refundable. However, resale provisions are given in case of cancellations - please see our Terms and Conditions for further details in regard to Tickets and Package reservations for the Palio.
What do we receive to confirm our ticket purchase or full package reservation?
For full Package reservations, you will initially receive an email and document to confirm the details of your reservation - once the balance payment is received we will email the necessary details, including a single summary voucher for your hotel, Palio tickets, city tour, and Contrada Dinner, or other options you have booked. Instruction on "how to arrive" to your ticket location will be given when you receive your tickets in Siena.
When will we receive our tickets?
Actual Palio Tickets for the race and reservation tickets for the Contrada dinner will be given to you in Siena. The specific location for "pick-up" and times of operation will be given in your ticket package documents. Once your reservation is confirmed and fully paid for, a detailed ticket information document will be emailed to you, listing all the necessary Siena contact information. Our tour director and other company personnel are in Siena for each race and will be in available during the days of the festival in order to help you with tickets or other festival related issues. We do not mail Palio tickets for several logistical reasons, primarily to avoid any problems (i.e. lost in the regular mail; forgotten at home).
If we don't purchase tickets, will we be able to see the race from the square/street?
You cannot see the race or the historical parade that precedes it unless you are in a reserved ticket position or in the the center of the campo, where you can stand (possibly in the sun) for the 3 plus hours prior to the race. Our ticket positions are in the shaded sections of the campo.
What time does the race start and end?
The time to be in your reserved ticket position is by 4:45pm; in most instances the race/event will over by 8:15pm.
What happens after the race?
After the winning horse/jockey crosses the finish line, a full celebration of the winning Contrada will begin (as one could expect). Once this celebration starts there is no time limit; eventually the winning Contrada members will make their way with their winning horse and jockey to leave the campo, passing Fonte Gaia and exiting the campo at San Martino. In July, the winning Contrada take their celebration to the Church of the Provenzano; in August the initial celebration finds its way to the Duomo (Siena Cathedral). Eventually the winning Contrada will make their way back to their own neighborhood to continue their celebrations. These celebitory actions are not "closed" to the public.
Does the Palio ticket allow you to witness the horse blessings?
The horse blessings are a featured activity with your package; however, a ticket is in fact not actually needed to witness a horse blessing. They take place in the early afternoon on the day of the Palio (approx 2:30pm) in the respective churches of each Contrada. As part of your ticket pacakge, you will receive suggestions on which blessing to witness and where these are located.
Is parking available if we arrive by car for Trial races or the Day of the Palio?
Yes, there are defined pay-to-park (blue line) areas and also pay-to-park covered parking garages around the perimeter of the historical city. From these areas you would then walk in to the city center. With the many people arriving, naturally the earlier you arrive, the more chance of finding a spot to park.
Are there other activities or celebrations in conjunction with the race?
There are several activities to be aware of. On the day of the race (July 2 or August 16) the 'horse blessings' begin at about 2:30pm (2pm in August) in the respective churches of each Contrada. This activity is free, but obviously you will give way to any Contrada member before entering the church; the 'in city' parade begins after the hourse blessings; the historical parade begins in the campo just after 5:00pm (a little earlier in August); the historical parade lasts approx 2 hours; the race gets ready to begin after the parade is completed. After the race by tradition, the winning Contrada will leave in celebration from the campo to go first the Church of Provenzano (July race) or the Duomo (August race). Afterwards they will proceed to their own neighborhood for more celebrations.
Is there a required attire for the different functions i.e. contrada dinner, cooking class, wine tour, museum tour, race, etc??
There is no particular "dress code" for any of the functions/activities. It is basically casual clothing and according to the weather and tempature. However, our suggestion, NO beach wear ("ie. tank tops, flip flops), in particular for the contrada dinner.
Our children will join us on this trip - can they attend the Palio? Are there discounts for children?
Yes, children can attend, but suggest the minimum age to consider is 5 years. Unfortunately, discounts for Palio tickets are not able to be offered for children.
I have a small child - can they sit on my lap while we are in our seats?
Sorry it is not possible. This is primarily due to lack of sufficient space in either the reserved grandstands or seated balcony positions, as well as for general safety concerns. However, a ticket option that can work well for families with smaller/younger children is with one of our apartments with windows overlooking the campo square.
Will food be served during the Palio or should we bring food?
Our Balcony options will serve a light refreshments (or snack food items) in the adjoining apartment (or shop), along with beverages during the two-hour parade that precedes the race. Our window ticket options do provide light food and drink refreshments. Therefore, with these options it is not necessary to bring your own food and it is otherwise requested not to bring any food items, additional wine, alcohol or drinks of any kind in glass bottles. For grandstand reserved seating you are permitted to bring your own beverages in plastic bottles; possibly some light food is also permitted, but in either case these items cannot be carried in coolers or other large containers.
What is featured in the city tour and contrada museum; how long does it last?
The city tour lasts about 1.5 hours and includes the major highlights of Siena, including the most unique part of the tour, a visit to one of the Contrada Museums. Each Contrada (17) has their own museum, which contains many historical and artistic pieces, representing the history of the Contrada and Siena. One of the items of interest are the victory banner taken by the Contrada when it wins a Palio. During the Palio, only through a special reservation request can one access these museum treasures. Our hotel/ticket package provides you this special reservation.
What is the 'Contrada Dinner' and who attends?
Known to the Sienese as the 'Cena Prova Generale', each of the 10 Contrada who will participate in the race will hold and invitation-only dinner in Siena the night before (thus on either July 1st or August 15th). The setting for each dinner is outdoors in a special street or piazza within the respective Contrada (district). Depending on the size of the Contrada, some dinners are served in this fashion for well over a 1,000 Contrada members and their guests. The dinners are by invitation only (you cannot arrive in Siena and simply walk up to purchase a ticket). The dinner while of course festive is also a way to raise money to support the financial needs of the Contrada. The dinner is 4-courses, served with wine and of course the ambiance of a very special evening.
In which Contrada will we have our dinner?
The selection for the Contrada is naturally based on who runs (only 10 of the 17 Contrade are in any one race). We personally know individuals in many of the Contrade, so we are sure to have these very special tickets to offer to our clients. You will be informed either prior or on your arrival in Siena as to which Contrada dinner you will attend. Our tour guides and or company representatives will be at the dinner(s) we choose to attend. For more on the Contrada click here.
What or when are the Trial Races?
There are 6 trial races (prova) during the 4 Days of the Palio. The most exciting of these are the 3 evening prove (7:00pm on June 29, 30, July 1 or August 13, 14, 15) - members of each Contrada will be in the campo to support their cause. Trial Race Tickets are optional and therefore not part of the Base Package. The additional cost is 75 euro per ticket (1 ticket is required per race). Of the 3 evening races, the most typical choice is the last one on either July 1st or August 15th, known as the 'prova generale', given it precedes the Contrada dinner (Cena Prova Generale) held later in the evening. Unlike the final race, there is not a parade or procession prior to any of the trial races; the entry time is therefore much later, recommended at 7:00pm pm. Also please note for various reasons, trial race tickets are generally not in the same location as your Palio Tickets (read more details below).
Can you reserve the grandstands for the Trial Races?
Typically not, since grandstand seats are taken by the different Contrada and their members. They even take many of the balconies. This leaves a only a few balconies and windows available for use for the trial race tickets. Our Trial Races tickets are located in a private apartment with large double windows that overlook the campo. Up to 4 persons are assigned to each window. There are 4 windows in the apartment (2 windows per floor).
What is provided by the Chianti/Tuscan wine tour?
The tour is 4 hours, leaving from and returning to Siena. It includes transportation. The tour will include history of the winery, and a cellar visit, plus a tour of the wine production facilities and wine tastings. After the tour, you will be treated to lunch at the winery. Cost is 85 euro per person (minimum participation required).
Can you tell me more about the cooking class options?
A special cooking class will be arranged for our Palio clients. Cost is 90 euro per person. The classes are offered in the historical center of Siena. A dinner time format (typical 4pm start) has been used in the past. The class includes professional instruction, recipe booklet, your participation in the preparation of the menu entrees and afterwards the enjoyment of your efforts with a three course meal with wine (minimum participation required).