We would like to help you understand just exactly how the Palio works, and to give you the chance to participate in the life of the contrada and immerse yourselves in its atmosphere because there is nothing else like it in the world. We will not be tourist spectators, instead, we will engross ourselves in its spirit - a once in a lifetime experience. The exclusive tour (max 2/3 people) will tell a story with pictures using the essentials that a photographer must have in order to document an event or a situation, such as, how to approach the unique challenges of travel photography and how to capture candid moments, dynamic energy, motion and human interaction.
The “Palio di Siena” is the world’s most exciting horse race which is celebrated twice a year in the Piazza del Campo (Siena’s historic square), on July 2nd and August 16th, in honour of the religious holidays, the Visitation and the Ascension of the Virgin Mary, Lady and Patron Protector of the City. It has been held almost uninterruptedly since the days of the medieval Republic of Siena. It is a centuries-old race between the various districts of the city of Siena in which ten horses, each representing a particular district, ridden bareback by a jockey who races at breakneck speeds around the city’s Piazza del Campo, surrounded by ancient buildings and cheered on by a passionate crowd of locals and tourists. The horses are selected and allocated by lot just three days before the race, must run bareback and there are only six trials beforehand. The responsibility for choosing and paying a jockey lies within each Contrada. The Palio is more than a simple horse race. It is the culmination of ongoing rivalry and competition between the districts (contradas), whereas, the race itself only lasts for a little more than a minute. The ceremony surrounding the event includes such elements as the blessing of the horses, with each horse being led into a church to be blessed by a priest on the afternoon of the race. Additionally, each district, known as a contrada, gathers its citizens for a feast on the night before the event, stoking the excitement of the residents and promoting community spirit. Siena’s entire year revolves around these races. Young drummers prepare and practice their rhythms and flag bearers rehearse all around the city.
|June 30th – July 3rd, 2019||4 days - 3 nights|
|Aug 14th – Aug 17th, 2019||4 days - 3 nights|
San Martino Curve
You will get a rather unique chance to tell a photo story about an authentic moment in time – which feels like you are suddenly part of a medieval spectacle. We will photograph a reportage about one of the world’s most spectacular races. In order to get a full story we will photograph all the events leading upto the main events on July 2nd or August 16th. Four days dedicated to the centuries-old celebration in which the Sienese people freely participate. A real slice of city life that manifests itself through a multitude of feelings as intense and diversified as: anxiety, trepidation, anticipation, joy, fear and anger punctuate the lives of inhabitants in these four days of the “festival”. Therefore there will be opportunities to realize a unique reportage.
An event that only people who were born and have lived in this Tuscan city can fully understand. For this reason, Sienese born Luca Venturi, Founder and Art Director of Siena International Photo Awards, and the related Festival, will be our Tour Guide. He is also author of several photo reportages about the Palio, published in international magazines, such as National Geographic, EOS Magazine, Foto Cult and Tutto Digitale. His pictures and stories about the Palio have been exhibited in London, as well as having received awards in various international competitions, such as "Travel Photographer of the Year" (UK), International Photography Awards (USA) and ND Awards (UK). Thanks to his knowledge of places and context, he will be able to accompany the group to places usually “impenetrable” to tourists; but, before that, he will attempt to explain the Palio through its history, its secrets and anecdotes that only a Sienese knows and is able to faithfully tell. These stories will be used to transmit the necessary emotion and create the right pathos to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the “celebration”, allowing you to deal with the storyboad with due sensitivity and emotion. So we will be able to live and take part in the life of the Contrada from the inside: to join in on the “Cenini” (dinners that take place every evening in the streets of the Contrada) usually only reserved for Contradaioli (members of the Contradas); to participate in the “Tratta”; to view the “Jockey Mass”; to visit the museum of a Contrada; to follow one of the horses, while returning to the barn after the trials; to attend the rite of the blessing of the horse and follow the “Comparsa” (Contrada members dressed in Medieval costumes) along the streets of their neighborhoods during the initial parade to Piazza del Campo. We will also have the opportunity to view one of the trials from a balcony overlooking “Piazza del Campo”, above the famous and dangerous “Curva di San Martino” (the hardest curve on the track), a unique point of view from which it will be possible to photograph the horse race. A spectacular way to watch the race overlooking the square where every detail of the event is visible in all its ancient glory. Non-photographer partners can join all excursions and meals with the group.
Up The Whip
The Jockey before the historical Parade
We recommend arriving in Florence or Rome two days early to enjoy some sightseeing on your own and acclimate to the time difference. Either city is about 2 hours from Siena by train. If you’re nervous about traveling alone in Italy, we can arrange an airport pickup. We will suggest photogenic places to visit and some good hotels for your stay.
Meet us in Siena. Checkin to your hotel and attend a briefing on the upcoming Photo Tour.
Welcome and introductions over a great pizza in the Piazza del Campo (or dinner in one of the contradas which run the Palio), and immerse yourself in this ancient city. During the night, time to explore Siena with our cameras, crossing through narrow alleys in order to admire and catch architectural treasures such as the Piazza del Campo, the Siena Cathedral or Duomo and the Basilica of San Domenico.
You will have the chance to soak in some of the Palio fever. You will visit one of the town’s districts (neighbourhoods) taking part in the big race.
This day gives us amazing adventures and lovely settings. You will explore the “Prova generale” (General Trial), which begins with a race run by mounted police. “La carica” is a race at breakneck speed involving “Carabinieri” with drawn swords. Then you will take part in one of the traditional, open-air dress rehearsal dinners in a contrada. Depending on the size of the contrada, there will be anywhere from 700 to 4000 people seated all together eating, singing and drinking lots of wine, with the favorite topic of conversation regarding the contrada’s chances of winning the race the following day.
The highlight of the tour is, of course, the day of the Palio.
We will get up early on the morning of the main event to photograph the exciting moments of the spectacular horse race, Il Palio.
You will attend the blessing of the horse in a Contrada’s church. The priest ends the mystical rite with a wish that sounds like an order: “Go and come back victorious!”.
The tradition-packed day begins with a historic pageant which winds through the city and there will be people from each of the contradas parading about in costumes from the Middle Ages with brightly-colored flags. Every part of the town is represented by flag-wavers, pageboys, drummers, military leaders and standard-bearers carrying the banner of their contrada. At the back of the pageant is the imposing chariot carrying the coveted silk banner, The Palio.
The race usually takes only 75 seconds and it is fast and furious, as well as, dangerous for jockeys and their horses.
Riders do three laps around the square and the first horse to cross the finish line, at the end of the third lap, is the winner. At the end of the race, the winning Contrada marches through the town with the Palio banner.
Yes, this is your last day – and yes, we still have to pack our bags and leave for your airport. We can help you arrange travel to Rome, Florence, Pisa or Bologna for your departure.
Horse with nuns
Historical Parade | Triumphal Chariot
Number of guests: max 2/3 people
Local transport: cars - minivan
Meals: all meals included
Type of photography: travel, city, country-side, urban landscape, street and storyboarding
Weather in July and August: Min 15°C - Max 30°C.
Price: on request
Tuscany is located in central Italy and stretches from the Apennines to the Tyrrhenian Sea. Its landscape, traditions, history, artistic heritage and stand-out cities - first among them Siena and Florence - make Tuscany an unquestionable protagonist of international tourism.
The historic centre of Siena has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is one of the nation’s most visited tourist attractions, famous for its cuisine, art, museums and for the Palio, a horse race held twice a year.
This special event, which involves the entire city of Siena, starts at birth when each child is assigned a Contrada and becomes a lifelong journey of rivalry.
We use hotels rated 4 or 5 stars. Rooms are assigned in order of reservations received, so early signup is recommended. Ask about premium rooms, at some Photo Tour locations for an additional charge.
Fees are based on double occupancy. Single accomodations may require an additional fee for participants who wish to have a private room to themselves. Costs vary according to hotel. If you are traveling alone and wish to share a room with another participant, please let us know and we’ll do our best to match you with a roommate.
Photographers of all skill levels are welcome. Advanced photographers will be able to focus on style development, lighting and composition.
Depending on the purpose of your travel to Italy, there are different types of visas which could be required. Whether you are planning to go on a visit, study or work abroad, or reside there permanently, you will have to apply for the specific Italian Schengen Visa, accordingly. Visa applications must be submitted in writing, giving all the details required on the special visa application form, which must be signed by the applicant, and accompanied by one passport-size photograph. More information
Italian is the official language of Italy and one of the four official languages in Switzerland. You’ll find Italian speakers in Malta, The Vatican State, San Marino, Croatia, Slovenia and France (especially in Corsica). Italian is the fourth most studied language in the world.
There is no charge for cancellations within ten days of booking your photo tour.
After ten days, reservation fees are non-refundable but may be applied to a future Photo Tour event.
Cancellations less than 90 days prior to a Photo Tour incur a cancellation fee of 25% of the total Photo Tour cost.
Cancellations less than 45 days prior to a Photo Tour incur a cancellation fee of 50% of the total Photo Tour cost.
Cancellations less than 15 days prior to a Photo Tour incur a cancellation fee of 75% of the total Photo Tour cost.
No partial refunds will be given for unused portions of a Photo Tour. We highly recommend that all Photo Tour participants purchase trip cancellation insurance independently.
The nearest airports to Siena are the Florence airport, "Amerigo Vespucci" (68 km), Pisa airport, "Galileo Galilei" (150 km) and Rome Airport, Fiumicino (263 km). Siena is connected daily with numerous Italian cities such us Rome, Milan, Florence, Pisa and Bologna. More information
Siena weather is characterised by an excellent temperate climate, with weather that is mild through most of the year and generally avoids the worst extremes of hot or cold that can be found elsewhere in Italy. Siena has four seasons: spring (March to May), summer (June to September), autumn (October to November) and winter (December to February). Summertime in Siena rarely gets as hot and sticky as other parts of the country, peaking around 31°C. Winters usually avoid the harshest cold, with temperatures around 10°C.
Siena experiences a humid subtropical and Mediterranean climate that features a hot summer and a damp winter.
Art Photo Travel reserves the right to photograph and film its Photo Tours in entirety. Participants should be aware that images of them may be used for promotional purposes or joint marketing efforts with third parties, without remuneration.