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Frequently asked Questions


Q): Where is Siena, Italy?

A): Siena is located in the central area of Tuscany, Italy, about 74 km south of Florence.



Q): What is a Contrada?

A): A Contrada (plural: Contrade) is a district or neighborhood of a city. In Siena, there used to be 59 but today only 17 remain. They are:

Aquila (Eagle) | Bruco (Caterpillar) | Chiocciola (Snail) | Civetta (Little Owl) | Drago (Dragon)| Giraffa (Giraffe) | Istrice (Porcupine) | Leocorno (Unicorn) | Lupa (She-Wolf) | Nicchio (Seashell) | Oca (Goose)| Onda (Wave) | Pantera (Panther) | Selva (Forest) | Tartuca (Tortoise) | Torre (Tower) | Valdimontone (Valley of the Ram)


Q): Who is part of a Contrada?

A): Traditionally, every Sienese is born, lives, and perishes within their contrada—while some “outsiders” are baptized into a district, it is not common. To be a contradaiolo, one typically earns this right at birth.















Q): What is the "Palio di Siena"?

A): The Palio is a world-renowned bareback horse race dating back to the Middle Ages that is held on July 2 and August 16. The “days of the Palio” refers to the four days (June 29-July 2 | August 13-August 16) beginning with the assignment of the horses and ending with the actual race.


Q): How many Contrade run in the Palio?

A): Of the 17, only 10 contrade run in the Palio.


Q): How are the Contrade who run selected?

A): Each race only consists of 10 of the 17 contrade, so the seven contrade who did not participate in that month of the previous year are automatically included and the final three are chosen by drawing.


Q): How many years has Il Palio di Siena been run?

A): The origins of the Palio are medieval, dating back to races that took place on buffalo and donkeys after bullfighting was made illegal in 1590. However, the first Palio to be constrained to the Piazza del Campo and to horseback took place in 1656.


Q): Is the race always run in one place or does it change from year to year?

A): Il Palio di Siena is always held in the Piazza del Campo.


Q): Is the Palio unique to Siena?

A): Il Palio di Siena is the largest, most internationally renowned race, however there are other horseback races throughout the various regions of Italy.


Q): Why do the winners wear baby-bottles / pacifiers?

A): The victorious contrada wear baby-bottles/ pacifiers that are emblematic of their “rebirth” due to the victory of Il Palio


Q): What is Masgalano?

A): Masgalano is the contest between the best alfieri(flag thrower), the drumers and other participats of the passegiata storica or 'Corteo Storico' during the time of il Palio. The silver bowl/plate attached to the cencio is then awarded to the contrada whose performance was deemed most impressive. See full explanation here.












Key Terms




Rolling of the flag around its poll during flag-waving and tossing it into the air and catching it again; performed by the "alfiere".



The cart carrying the Palio or "cencio"; it is the final participant in the historical procession before Il Palio.



An entrance into the Piazza del campo where all historical processions enter from; it is also the uphill curve on the race course.



Name of the painted silk flag which is the true Palio. In Il Palio di Provenzano (July), "il cencio" is usually painted by a Sienese artist, whilst August may feature a more nationally known artist.



A district or neighborhood.



(Plural--contradaioli) A person who belongs to a contrada



Another name for the hand-painted, silk Palio flag.



The drawing for the contrade who will run in the Palio.



The scarf tied around the necks of Contrada members; different than those bought by tourists. A fazzoletto indicates which contrada one belongs to.



Assigned the task of calling out and lining the horses before the race.


The trials after the horses have been assigned to 10 racing contrade; this gives



Of the 10 contrade running, nine are called by the "Mossiere" and lined up within ropes; the 10th will stay on the outskirts has the challenge of starting the race by galloping past the "verocchino".


San Martino:

The most difficult, downhill curve in the Piazza during Il Palio.


The flag-waving procession of all 17 contrade during the historical procession leading to Il Palio.



Place where the contradaioli join together to eat, talk, play and other share in other activities during the year.



Name for the bell in the Torre del Mangia, the tower in the Piazza del Campo. The tower is also called "sunto". The bell tolls constantly during the historical procession before Il Palio.



Siena is divided into three sections, "Terzo di San Martino", "Terzo di Città", and "Terzo di Camollia".


Tratta dei cavalli:

Public drawing of the horses to assign to the 10 running contrade; this is done by the 29th of June and 13th of August and is not reversible. Even if the horse is injured in the trials or in some type of accident, that contrada simply does not run.








About the project

Q): When was this project started?

A): This project officially started in April of 2015 when it was proposed to Price's thesis director and board members.

However, the content on the website and the story spans over nine to 10 years.


Q): How were the interviews conducted?

A): The majority of the interviews were conducted in both Italian and English, although some were conducted by Price in just English or just Italian. However, for the majority, the questions were first asked in English and then, via a translator, were

 re-asked in Italian. 


The interviews, which were recorded, were later transcribed by Price with assistance from her Italian professor/ thesis board member and bilingual friends in the Bruco.


Q): How was the music selected?

A): The music was chosen by Price who contacted the individual musicians in the summer months of 2015. They kindly provided written consent and/or a license for the rights to their work.


Q): Who took the photos / videos?

A): Almost all the images seen on the website were taken by Price, although some were kindly provided by friends in the Bruco contrada or else were supplied by Creative Commons. This explanation is the same for the videos, although any short-film with the "Becoming Bruco" intro was produced solely by Price.


Q): Who created the multimedia/ interactive content and designed the website?

A): Price created all of the multimedia and interactive content on the website, in addition to designing the website from scratch for both desktop and mobile platform viewing.


Q): What equipment kit was used in gathering audio/photos/videos?

A): Price had two different cameras at her disposal, both which were used to gather content, in addition to a hand-held microphone and mobile phones. 


Nikon S8100, point-shoot 

Canon Rebel T-5, DSLR

 Kit lens (18-55 mm)

Long lens (75-300 mm)

Sony ICD-PX440 voice recorder

HTC-1 smartphone, microphone & camera

iPhone 6, microphone & camera


Q): What programs were used to produce this website?

A): Adobe Cloud (Audition, Edge, Muse, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, etc.) | Knight's Lab Timeline and Storymaps.

The animated introduction video for all of the videos/short-films was created with iMovie on an iPhone.


Q): What were the easiest/difficult parts of this project? 

A): "By far, the easiest part of this project was thinking of the idea. Gathering content for the online portion of the thesis wasn't challenging, either, as everyone was very helpful and obviously Siena is very beautiful place, the contrade also engaging, and so the camera loved it.


 The hardest part was doing historical research in Italian for the written portion of the thesis, as it is my that I'm still learning! The extensiveness of the document I wrote wasn't easy, so I'd say that, in addition to familiarizing myself with new programs and tinkering with basic coding. Definitely a year mixed with triumphs and challenges."

-Tea Francesca Price, 2016


Q): What was learned during the creation and at the completion of this project? 

A): "I learned a lot over the past year, and in more ways than just improving linguistic skills or reaching a certain level of awareness in the Adobe suite. As a journalist, I learned about being a fully-immersed reporter and how to approach reporting sensitive/personal content that required adhering to certain limitations.  As an individual, I realized how important the lifestyle of the contrada is to me and how much I treasure the people who've made me and who I have made--family."

-Tea Francesca Price, 2016









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