My husband and I will be travelling from Rome to Florence between late June and early July and have just discovered that the Palio will be taking place during that time. Has anyone been to it? We are concerned it may be too crowded to enjoy the town.
Siena will be VERY crowded on the dayon the Palio. Try to get there several days ahead, or afterward.
katherine, I believe there will two Palio races, July 2 and August 16. As Sasha mentioned, it will be VERY CROWDED, especially around Piazza del Campo at race time (around 17:00). I've never been there for the race as I prefer not to travel in July/August, but watched last year's Palio "live" on RAI Uno, and it's quite a spectacle (as I recall, one of the horses had to be "put down"). I have been in Siena when an awards ceremony was held for the best Tamburino (Drummer) of the Palio, with all participants in full costume. It was also an impressive occasion, with a stage set up in Il Campo, dignitaries giving long-winded speeches, etc. As I recall, the winner's trophy was large, and had to be carried by four people. That particular occasion provided a somewhat memorable travel experience when I went for dinner that night, but that's another story...... Cheers!
I have been to the Palio in July. It's blazing hot, insanely crowded, completely exhausting, and totally worth it. It was an experience that I wouldn't have missed. It's just nuts. The parades through the streets before the race are postively medieval and very cool. Then everyone crams into the plaza to wait for the race. Be sure to have lots of water with you, as well as sunscreen, food and a good hat. Something to sit on while you wait is a good idea as the pavement is very hot. Truthfully, it really is too crowded to enjoy the town. You can't even access some of the major sights. So it depends on your desires whether you want to see the town or experience the event. 2 different things-your choice!
You ain't seen Siena till you've experienced the Palio. And that's all I have to say.
See Siena OR see the Palio, because should you choose to time your trip coinciding with race day you will not see the serene, timeless Siena that most come to see.
I regard it in the same category as the Pamplona or La Tomatina...only for the adrenaline seekers.