Italy cancels the Siena Palio for first time since World War Two

Italy cancels the Siena Palio for first time since World War Two
The 2019 Palio di Siena will be the last until 2021. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
Italy's most famous horserace won't take place this summer due to the coronavirus, the Tuscan city of Siena has announced.

The Palio, a tradition dating back centuries that attracts tens of thousands of spectators each July and August, will be cancelled this year for the first time since World War Two after the city council decided it was too risky to hold it amid the ongoing epidemic.

Mayor Luigi De Mossi called it “a painful but unanimous decision”.

IN PICTURES: The Siena Palio, Italy's historic horse race

The city had originally hoped to postpone the two bareback races that make up the Palio to late August and September of this year, but on Thursday confirmed that there would be no racing until 2021. 

The race around Siena's central Piazza del Campo draws large crowds who pack together in the centre of the square, something that would violate safety advice to avoid public gatherings and maintain at least a metre's distance from others.


Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

 

The Palio sees ten horses, each representing one of the city's contrade or neighbourhood districts, race three laps around the piazza. The tradition dates back to the 1600s and traditionally takes place every July 2nd and August 16th.

The Palio joins the long list of events cancelled or cut short in Italy this year due to the Covid-19 outbreak, including the Venice carnival, Ivrea's orange festival, the Perugia journalism festival, several trade fairs, exhibitions, music and theatre performances, and all sporting events including Serie A football.


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