On Siena's main square, Il Campo, my tour guide Roberto Bechi explains, "For the Sienese, you're born...there's the Palio...and then you can die." We're in the square for a "charge of the carabinieri" and a practice run where the jockeys get to know their horses (and vice versa). The square is pretty full -- but it'll be twice as packed for the big race tomorrow.
While the jockeys -- usually from out of town -- are hired hands, the horses are stars. Each neighborhood gets its horse through a lottery. They're then adopted and showered with love -- respected as if special neighborhood citizens. They're groomed and washed in stables like 5-star hotels.
This is Day 95 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 originally appeared at blog.ricksteves.com/blog/palio-practice.)