Palio of Asti
Take part in the thrill of the race
Let yourself be enchanted by the medieval atmosphere that pervades Asti in the most important moment of the year: The week of the Palio.
It is a waving of flags and a blast of trumpets – or “clarine” (clarions) as we usually call them – to announce the entry into the square of the Captain and his Magistrates, all strictly on horseback.
What will happen from that moment on is a succession of emotions that gradually accelerate the heartbeat of those who, in the stands or in the central parterre, are lucky enough to attend the Palio of Asti.
Three heats and one final. A few minutes each. Before, during and after: The atmosphere that makes the Asti’s Palio unique.
The peculiar economic vocation of Asti, linked to its centrality with respect to the communication routes between Liguria, the Po valley and Alpine passes, and to the great ability and mobility of its businessmen, characterizes its entire historical story.
Asti is a medieval city by training and by vocation and here is where the Palio race has its roots.
The fortified houses, the Romanesque churches, and the cut-off towers of the XII-XV centuries dominate, in the visitor’s gaze, the refined baroque facies of the historic center, the eighteenth-century and elegant noble palaces, the nineteenth-century arcades, or some suggestive liberty views. In Asti, the Middle Ages dominates, emerging along the streets and at the corner of every square.
The wait is a city that has been preparing… for one year. A city that in a week transforms itself for “its day”: Banners and flags waving the pride of belonging.
On the square, the track and stands take shape: Asti sands, fences, jute, barriers. The rope, the winch, the reharsals…
A city that anticipates the Palio with the emotions of the people in its squares, the propitiatory dinners on Friday and Saturday, the Eve market, the official enrollment of jockeys in the halls of the Town Hall on Saturdays, the children’s parade… And then, on Sunday, the solemn mass in the churches in the morning, the blessing of the horses, the costumed figures in the streets, the tension that is felt, the excited and cheering villagers, the participating tourists, the open museums…
Asti has its Palio! Asti runs the Palio!
On 10 August 1275, the people of Astesi ran the Palio near the walls of Alba as was the custom in Asti during the feasts of Saint Secundus. This is the first attestation of the race.
Since then, the Palio has always accompanied the historical development of the city, reflecting its alternating events.
In eight centuries, it has undergone transformations, but has kept its original characteristics unaltered: The charm of competitive competition, the partisan passion, the privileged relationship with the patron saint and a great identity value.
The Palio is Asti, which year after year, has been recognizing itself over the centuries in the horse race, in the emotions of a collective ritual.
Sounds. The neigh of the horses lining up on the rope. The songs of challenge of the contradaioli (contrada members). The announcement “Asti runs the Palio is running!” shouted in a loud voice by the Captain.
Colors. Waved by the flags raised by the virtuosity of those who govern them. Clothes flaunted with haughty pride by ladies, nobles and parading knights. Worn by jockeys so they can be recognized in the confused whirlwind of the race.
People. Everyone lined up for their faction (twenty-one districts, villages or municipalities), everyone engaged in preparations since the previous year. Because the Palio takes place in one day, but lasts for a year.
Rituals. The propitiatory dinners of each district, village and municipality. The blessing of the horse. The choice of the master of the Palio who will have the task and the honor of painting the cloth that is the subject of the dispute. The historical procession, the paliotto, the palio degli scudieri. Staying faithful to tradition is the best way to pay homage to the oldest palio in Italy.