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 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.
Can we order just Palio Tickets or other options without accommodations?
Individual Palio ticket orders will be accepted, but our best tickets will be assigned to those clients who also reserve our available accommodations and basic package of options. Festival activities, including, Contrada museum/city tour and the Contrada dinners, plus other options (cooking class, trial races) will be provided based on their availability, but can only be reserved in combination with a Palio Ticket order. Please note individual Palio tickets range in price from 300 euro up to 500 euro, depending on their location. Please Contact Us with your specific request.
Where is the race run for the Palio in Siena?
Since the mid 1600s the Palio di Siena has been run for both the July 2nd and August 16th race 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 for the race.
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 (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) - the grandstands 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. They are offered at the Start/Finish Line - Mossa, or away from the start line at either Fonte Gaia or Casato. We have Grandstand seats and Balcony seats (or balcony standing positions) in each of these 3 ticket locations. We also have private apartments with windows to offer for Palio Tickets and or Trial Race tickets. For reference, the 4th area in the campo for tickets (which we do not use) is San Martino - we do not use it, since it lies in the sun. A visual of these various locations in the campo can be seen here: Piazza del Campo per Palio.
Are the Palio Tours tickets located in the shaded areas of the campo?
Yes, our tickets are in the shaded areas of the campo. 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.
How are ticket prices determined?
There are some guidelines set down by the city of Siena, but somewhat ignored by the 100+ so called 'ticket owners' (private owners of the grandstand sections, balconies and windows). In essence prices are based on your proximity to the start/finish line, known as the 'Mossa'. The closer you are to the Mossa, the higher the price. Individual tickets at the Mossa can range between 450 and 600 euro. Other locations range in price from 300 to 450 euro.
Tell us more about the hotels or other accommodation options?
Our base package (3 nights) provides a choice of 3 or 4 star hotels in Siena. More information is provided on the following webpage - Siena Hotels. Our Days of the Palio Tour offers 5 nights with a special hotel property located just outside of Siena, in the Chianti. 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: Piazza del Campo Apartment. In addition, we do have other select apartments in other areas of the historical city that can be used 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 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 on for the rescheduled race.
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 Days of the 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. 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 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. For 'tickets only' reservations - once your payment is received we will provide a ticket voucher along with a description of your ticket location. Instruction on "how to arrive" to your ticket location will be given when you pick up 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 package 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).
Is it less expensive to order just Palio tickets?
No, not if your are considering the needs for accommodations and or other event related options. Plus our ticket prices are less expensive when included in "the package".
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 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 8:30pm.
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 celebration finds its way to the Duomo (Siena Cathedral).
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. Those clients who have purchased the full hotel/ticket package 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 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.
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. In either case 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.
Is there access to restrooms?
Only in some of the Balcony locations is there a restroom available. The Grandstands do not provide access to restroom, as the restaurants and bars in the buildings behind the grandstand seating (bleachers) are not open during the time of the Palio; only before and after the race are they open.
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 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 general safety concerns. In addition, it should be noted you will be in your reserved seats for 3+ hours - the short 3 lap race is preceded by a lengthy historical parade.
Will food be served during the Palio or should we bring food?
Some of our Balcony options will serve a light buffet in the adjoining apartment (or shop), along with beverages during the two-hour parade that precedes the race. 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 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; Restrooms are not available for the grandstand seating, some of the balcony/apartment locations will provide a restroom.
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 Package provides you this 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 the race (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 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) and with whom we have a local contact with. 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 prior to your arrival in Siena as to which Contrada dinner you will attend. At least one of our 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 (prove) during the 4 Days of the Palio. The most exciting of these are the 3 evening prove (7:15pm on June 29, 30, July 1st, or at 7:00pm August 13, 14, 15th) - members of each Contrada will be in the campo to support their cause. Tickets are are optional and therefore not part of the Base Package. The additional cost is 65 euro per ticket. 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.
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 few other balconies and windows available for "general" specatator use. Which is where our Trial Races tickes are located.
What is provided by the Chianti/Tuscan wine tour?
The tour is 4 hours, leaving from and returning to Siena. It includes transportation. Typically you will visit either Fonterutoli (Mazzei) or Dievole winery. The tour will include history and cellar visit, tour of the wine production facilities and wine tastings. After the tour, you will be treated to lunch at the winery. Cost is 80 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 85 euro per person. The classes are offered in the historical center of Siena. Due to the calendar days/dates in 2013, the class can only be offered for the August Palio (August 14th). A dinner time format (5pm 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).