Summer 2008 in Rome: Don’t Miss the Palio delle Contrade!

Every year the small town of Allumiere near Rome stages an unusual traditional donkey race. Donkeys representing the six districts of the town race around the central square on a racetrack specifically made for the occasion. Before the race there is a vibrant historical procession, known as the parade of the Sbandieratori.

The Palio delle Contrade will be held on 17th Aug this year at the Piazza della Repubblica 20 in Allumiere just north west of Rome. Located on the Lazian coast just north of Rome, the town of Allumiere can be reached from your Rome apartment or Rome hotel in the centre by taking the E80-A12 and exiting at Civitavecchia, Terme Taurine. Then follow signs to Allumiere. The journey should take less than an hour. The Palio itself is free and begins at 5pm, it is one of the main events in Soriano nel Cimino’s Sagra delle Castagne (Chestnut Festival).

The opening event of the festival is the ‘Blessing of the Cavaliers and Archers’, during which the cavaliers ride (and archers walk) into the main square in a grand procession, accompanied by their districts trumpeters and drummers, all followed by a magnificent parade of villagers in medieval dress. They take formation in front of the cathedral as a priest blesses the competitors and the opening ceremonies commence.

The event begins with a round of archery, followed by a round of jousting for rings.  The jousters ride a course that is marked with a series of poles. Each pole has three rings of different size.  They are scored based on how many rings they get, how big those rings are, and the speed at which they maneuvered the course.

With the second round, the archers take more distance and the cavaliers get a second shot at their remaining rings, again judged by ring count, ring size and speed. A third and final round puts the archers at a greatly increased distance, and the cavaliers that their last run around the track in an effort for the perfect score. After the race is over, (It lasts roughly 5 hours), all of the scores are tallied and the contrada with the highest combined score wins this year’s Palio…

I would really recommend going to see it this year if you’re going to be in Rome. I had a fantastic time; I stayed in Rome accommodation in the heart of Rome and drove out to see the Palio. The atmosphere there and the people were buzzing with excitement, and the locals certainly felt very passionately about this festival. The losers of the Palio were crying their eyes out whilst the winners started celebrating with champagne and didn’t stop till long into the night.

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