The Corteo Storico Procession
The sumptuous Corteo Storico procession that enters Piazza del Campo prior to the race is a historical evocation in costume of the Middle Ages, that golden age of splendour in which Siena was a free city. The rich costumes worn by the over 700 people who make up the procession are faithful reconstructions of 15th century ceremonial garb, ranging from pages to ladies and officials of the Comune, with each Contrada dressed in its colours.
On the day of the Palio all those taking part in the Corteo Storico gather in the courtyard of the Palazzo di Giustizia in the early afternoon. Each Contrada marches with a drummer, two flag-throwers, a leader, a standard-bearer, a shield bearer and two pages. Once everyone has lined up the procession leaves Piazza del Duomo and moves down Via del Capitano, Piazza Postierla, Via San Pietro, Via del Casato di Sopra and Via del Casato di Sotto, where it is joined by representatives of the Comune.
As soon as the great bell, known as sunto, of the Torre del Mangia begins tolling, the procession enters Piazza del Campo and begins its parade, which lasts for two hours and culminates in the entry of the Drappellone, which is then hoisted onto the Carroccio cart pulled by four white oxen. On the Carroccio stand the four Provveditori di Balia, a bell-ringing page and six trumpeters playing the Palio March composed by Formichi.
At this point the seventeen couples of flag-throwers, two from each Contrada, begin their performance from different points in the square, to the beat of the drums. Once the flag-throwers have finished, the members of the procession move towards the large stalls from which they will watch the race. The Drappellone is instead raised onto the stand of the judges. The procession is followed by twelve pages of the Comune bearing festoons of gilded laurel and seventeen more flag-throwers who perform the Sbandierata della Vittoria. This is the moment everyone has been waiting for – the start of the race