Although it’s no Kentucky Derby, the Palio di Siena still tops the list as one of the most famous horse races around. The people of Siena have been cheering on their contradas (town districts) since 1656, back when the first Palio was run in honor of the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary near the old houses of Provenzano Salvani. Run in the Piazza del Campo twice a year, the Palio is a dangerous combination of adrenaline and a curved, sloping racetrack that often ends in riderless horses and injured jockeys. Despite the risks, the Palio still ignites the passions of both tourists and Sienese wait all year to watch this thrilling race.
The 17 Contradas of Siena are fiercely proud and independent–each has their own government, coat of arms, official representatives, festivals and patron saints–and the rivalries leading up to the Palio are no less than what you’d expect from any loyal Italian.
Here are the 10 teams who are running on July 2nd:
Colors: Yellow, Red & Deep Blue
Motto: “With a slow and important step, the chiocciola leaves the field triumphant.”
Colors: Red and black striped with white
Motto: “I see during the night.”
Colors: Black, White and Orange
Motto: “Et urbis et senarum signum et deuces.” (The symbol and honor of Siena and its people)
Colors: White and Green with Red
Motto: “Clangit ad arm.” (Call to arms)
Colors: Red, Azure and White
Motto: “My speed/energy gets past all obstacles.”
Colors: Yellow and deep Blue
Motto: “Strength and Consistency.”
Colors: Red and Yellow with white
Motto: “Under my blow the wall breaks down.”
Colors: Pink and Green with Yellow
Motto: “The heart that burns me becomes a flame in my mouth.”
Colors: Yellow and Green stripes with azure
Motto: “Like revolution sounds my name.”
Colors: Red, white, blue and black
Motto: “Only for defense I sting.”
So pick your Contrada wisely–if your team is lucky enough to win, you’ll be celebrating in the streets with wine, parades and music long after the race is over.