The Eve of the Palio
A number of traditional rituals take place on the day before each Palio. These range from the assignation of the horses to a number of trial runs in Piazza del Campo intended to get the horse, referred o as berbero, used to both jockey and track. During this preparatory phase the horse is meticulously cared for by its barbaresco, who is appointed to look after it until the day of the race.
The fifth trial run is known as the prova generale and takes place on the afternoon of the day before the race. This is followed by the cena della prova generale dinner held in the streets of each Contrada. The dinner, made up of abundant food and drink, is intended to bring good luck for the morrow and the streets are all illuminated. The Priore and all the authorities of the Contrada take part in the dinner, along with the jockey, or Fantino, who occupies the place of honour. The night before the race is also the moment when allied Contrade meet to draw up a strategy for ensuring that the rival Contrade will not win the race on the following day.
After dinner the Capitano del Priore and the jockey make speeches to spur the contradaioli to victory on the following day. This is followed by everyone singing the hymn of the Contrada.
On the morning of the race the day begins with the Messa del Fantino, officiated by the archbishop in the Cappella di Piazza, near the Palazzo Pubblico.