Immerse yourself in the Italian celebration and traditional colorful pageantry of Il Palio, Siena's historic barebacked horse race dating to the 12th century.

Starting at: $5,495 Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Contrada flags  Siena's Campo and Palazzo del Republico  Looking down at Siena's Campo   Parade in Siena's Campo before the Palio horse race  The red circle highlights the location of your private balcony overlook on race day  Contrada flags in Siena  Contrada (neighborhood) in Siena during the Palio  The facade and distinctive belltower of Siena's cathedral  The Campo in Siena  Florence and the Duomo at dusk  Michelangelo's <i>David</i>, the centerpiece of the Accademia. Credit: John Kellerman/Alamy

Smithsonian at Il Palio di Siena

7 days from $5,495

Immerse yourself in the Italian celebration and traditional colorful pageantry of Il Palio, Siena's historic barebacked horse race dating to the 12th century.

or Call 855-330-1542


Activity Level 2: Moderate

Expectations: Week-long tour in Siena with one hotel stay, with a final night in Florence. Daily activity of four to six hours and walking up to four miles most days. Coaches are not availble in the historic city center where events and activities take place, so travelers should expect to do almost everything on foot. Walking will entail uneven terrain, cobblestones, city hills, a lot of stairs including grand stone staircases (some without handrails), and absence of elevators. Good balance and sure footing is important given the crowds in attendance for the various events. Also, expect extended periods of standing during walking tours and watching and listening to important events. (When watching the actual horse race, travelers will be gathered on a private terrace overlooking the Campo, with access to seating, refreshments, and restrooms, as guests of your hosts.)

Appropriate for: Travelers who are physically fit and comfortable with longer days of touring (both walking tours and coach time).


Days 1 & 2 — Depart U.S., Arrive in Florence, Italy

Arrive in Florence and transfer to Siena. Check into the NH Hotel and relax for the afternoon. This evening, gather for a welcome reception and dinner at the hotel. (R,D)

Day 3 — Siena and the Palio

Today, explore the hill town of Siena, a World Heritage site. Begin in the historic center with a guided tour of Siena’s principal monuments, including the Cathedral with its ornate façade and glorious interior, the baptistery and the 14th century Palazzo Pubblico overlooking the campo, the seashell-shaped square where the race takes place. Enjoy lunch and time at leisure. This afternoon, watch one of the trial races as the jockeys and horses prepare for the race. (B)

Day 4 — The Palio Tradition

Today, learn about the true passion and spirit of the Palio with a local expert. The race itself is very short, but the activities leading up to the event happen year round. Travel through one of the contrada to see how these neighboring districts prepare for the big event. Visit the local museum to gain insight into the history, meaning, and significance of the Palio. The living museum contains a fascinating display of objects such as letters, eyewitness accounts, statues, paintings and religious artifacts. Then, go to the parish church, where the jockeys and horses receive blessings prior to the race. Spend the evening with one of the contrada for a lively party and dinner. Hear stories of great victories and learn the devotion and loyalty that the Sienese have for their contrada. Celebrations will continue into the early hours. (B,D)

Day 5 — The Race

Spend the morning at leisure to watch the fascinating rituals and traditions that lead up to the evening race. Witness the Mass for the Jockeys celebrated by the Archbishop in the Palazzo Pubblico chapel. Following this, the final trial provaccia is run. For this trial, jockeys traditionally do not exert their horses too much, sparing them for the race. Early in the afternoon, all chosen horses are blessed in their local church where the ceremony concludes with the priest saying, vai e torna vincitore(go and return a winner). For the rest of the afternoon, the horses are paraded through the city for all to see. Behind each horse, costumed representatives from the contrade beat their drums and display their prowess at flag throwing. As the sun starts to go down, take your seat in a terrace overlooking the campo to enjoy the exciting Palio. This evening, after the winning contrada receives the Palio banner, enjoy dinner at a restaurant near the campo to watch the celebrations. (B,D)

Day 6 — Siena and Florence

Following breakfast this morning, check out of the hotel and depart Siena and transfer to Florence. Upon arrival, embark on a walking tour featuring the highlights of Florence. Visit the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David, venture across the Oltr’arno to visit Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens, or climb up to Piazzale Michelangelo for a panoramic view of the city. Gather as a group this evening for a celebratory farewell reception and dinner. (B,R,D)

Day 7 — Return to the U.S.

This morning, check out of the hotel and transfer to the Florence airport for individual flights home. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)