The famous Palio of Siena

Your Monthly News -The Palio & Culinary Tour Updates 
Ciao a tutte!
August is upon us and racing us into the second half of the year. Today is Ferragosta and tomorrow is the Palio! Read on about the Palio and more information on our upcoming tours to Italy.  
Gina and Mary
The Palio
The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin on August 15 is a national holiday in Italy and throughout most of Europe, and many Europeans go on vacation around this time - which is why so many places are closed when you take an August vacation to Italy! But in Siena, Tuscany, the feast of ferragosto has special significance to the Sienese: the city has been dedicated to the Madonna del Assunta since the middle ages and the exceptional horse race known as the Palio has been run in her honor on August 16 for over 300 years.

Throughout Siena's long history, the Madonna of the Assumption has protected the Sienese people. From thevictory over Florence in the battle of Monteperti on September 4,
1260 to World War II and the present day, the Sienese have begged for and received divine protection and have dedicated themselves to honoring the Virgin. So the Palio run in her honor on
August 16
is special and the winning contrada - neighborhood of Siena competing in the race - streams into the cathedral after the race, waving their colors, beating the drums and singing a Te Deum of thanksgiving to the Virgin.

The palios held in Siena in medieval times were horse races that started outside the city and ended at the Duomo, in addition to competitions and mock battles held in the Piazza del Campo. The first Palio run as we know it today - 3 times around the Piazza del Campo on a temporary dirt track - was run on July 2nd in the 1650's and the August palio was added in 1701. Ten neighborhoods of Siena compete with each other in a race that takes 1 minute and 15 seconds. The winning contrada gets to claim the drappellone, a silk banner especially painted for each race, as well as bragging rights to the victory. The banners are beautiful pieces and always have the image of the Madonna and the ten contrada colors or symbols that are competing in that race.

It is an exciting time in Siena during the days of the Palio. A week before the race the dirt is put on the piazza track and the Sienese say "C'e' la terra in Piazza", which literally means "the dirt is in the Piazza" but figuratively means "life begins again, hope begins again."   Four days before the race the horses are chosen and then assigned to each of the ten competing contrade and trial races are run both morning and evening leading to the actual race at 7 pm on August 16th.
The night of August 15 is a festive night with a special dinner in each contrada's piazza featuring lots of singing, celebrating and hopes for a victory, or at the very least defeat for your enemy!   Onthe afternoon of the race the horse and jockey enter the contrada church and are blessed by the contrada priest before taking part in the historic medieval parade, winding through the streets of Siena and ending in the Piazza.   All 17 contrade participate in the parade and at the very end the palio banner enters on a cart pulled by six white oxen to lots of cheering and clapping! You can feel the emotions increasing and running high - thousands of people are packed into the Piazza with thousands more crowding every window and balcony.

When we took a group to the Palio two years ago we had perfect seats on a balcony that gave us a great vantage point for watching the start and finish of the race, as well as the crazy excitement that happens as the winning contrada celebrates, hoisting high the jockey, waving the Palio banner and hugging and kissing the horse and each other. We were fit in like sardines on our balcony, but we didn't mind because the view was so wonderful. Oh, and we had refreshments...and a bathroom.

Nothing can compare to participating in the Days of the Palio with an insider like Gina. In 2017 we're planning to take a group to the August Palio - the Selva (the contrada that Gina is a member of) will be running! If you're interested, let Mary know and she'll get you on the list! We limit our group to 10 people. Listen here to the race on the 16th August at 7 pm, Italian time
You can also watch after the race on (google 16 Agosto Palio of Siena 2016).
2017 for Culinary Travels!

Piedmont June 16-22, 2017 : We are offering our first tour to the Piedmont region next June. Set in the shadows of the Alps this region is beautifully landscaped with grapevines, castles and tiny hamlets. Famous for its wines - Barolo, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco and Dolcetto, this region also boasts hazelnuts, white truffles and a dizzying array of delicious cheeses. We are only taking 12 people and have a few open spots.  Click here for more information on our website. 

June 24-July 1, October 7-14 and 14-21, 2017Tuscany - Our full immersion of the foods and wines of Tuscany tour is 7 nights and 6 full days experiencing the foods, wines, history and culture of this region. We'll stay in one of our favorite villas on an olive estate near Siena and explore the ancient hill top towns, wineries and local food producers.

October 5-7 Bologna: We are offering a special pre-Tuscany tour of the Best of Bologna - Emilia Romagna. We'll meet in Bologna for a few days, seeing and eating the delicacies of this region. We'll do a food tour of Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma and balsamic vinegar and have a cooking lesson focused on hand made pastas (tortellini!) and Bolognese ragu along with eating in some of our favorite ristoranti in Bologna. Then we'll move on to Tuscany and arrive to our villa home for the week October 7 - 14.  There is an option if you'd like to do only the 2
San Gimi in Fall
days in Bologna too.

Our tours are all inclusive: accommodations in the lovely villas or quaint hotels, all meals, excursions and transportation to these excursions are included and we're there every step of the way to show you the best each region has to offer. We lead small groups of 8-12 people and our excursions are carefully thought out to entertain and educate, introducing you to local people who love to share their vineyard or city or farm with you.

Not sure where to start? Check out our website or give Mary a call (972) 342-8308!

Celebrating a milestone?

Are you celebrating a milestone anniversary or birthday? We can help you plan and organize your celebration to Italy with your family or friends. What a wonderful way to celebrate - in Italy and we'll take care of the details. You can either come on one of our food and wine tours or we can arrange for a villa, daily excursions and dinners - whatever you choose.

Contact Mary to start your planning!
Gina Stipo and Mary Stipo Potter | Ecco La Cucina| 1-972-342-8308| Email | Website