Video: The Aftermath of Siena's Palio Horse Race

08/31/2016 01:52 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

In these clips, you can see the euphoria erupting after the finish of the Palio horse race. When the winner crosses the finish line, 1/17th of Siena -- the prevailing She-wolf (Lupa) neighborhood -- goes berserk. Tears of joy flow, people embrace. The jubilation is over-the-top both for the winners, and for the many neighborhoods joyously celebrating their rival contrada's defeat.

We zip out into the street to film the mobs coursing toward the cathedral (I'm protecting Simon as he attempts to hold the camera still). The happy "Lupa-Lupa-Lupa!" horde thunders through the streets and up toward the cathedral. We've plotted our course through back lanes to position ourselves at the cathedral. Our cameraman, Karel, is already camped out inside the cathedral to film the climax of the celebrations at the high altar. Once there, they pack the church, and the winning contrada receives the coveted Palio banner -- champions...until the next race.

Carrying their new trophy and hoisting their jockey high, the She-wolf crowd tumbles out of the cathedral and into the street, where 16 neighborhoods will settle back into normalcy...and this jubilation will consume the She-wolf district until the wee hours -- 500 years of tradition, still going strong.

The August 2016 race was actually historic: For the first time in over a century, the same contrada won both the July and the August races. That's why you see two banners leaving the church in this photo:

Seeing the euphoria overcome members of the winning contrada reminded me that it's impossible for a tourist to really understand what this ritual race means to the people of Siena.


This is Day 99 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I'm reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Vienna, the Alps, the Low Countries, England, Siena, and beyond. Find more on my travel blog.

(This post was originally published at blog.ricksteves.com/blog/palio-aftermath.)