The Palio is a horse race that is held twice each year, on July 2 and August 16, in Siena, Italy. Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colors, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards. The race itself, in which the jockeys ride bareback, circles the Piazza del Campo, on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid, three times and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is common for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and indeed, it is usual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys.
But the Palio di Siena is more than a simple horse race. It is the culmination of ongoing rivalry and competition between the contrade. Although there is great public spectacle, the passions displayed are still very real.
The two-hour pageant, the Corteo Storico, precedes the race, and attracts visitors and spectators from around the world.
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