A Little History
The Palio of Ferrara is the oldest in the world. As a matter of fact in 1279 the Comune of Ferrara recognized a folk tradition which started about 20 years before to celebrate the victory of the Marquis and Lord of the town Azzo VII Novello d'Este against Ezzelino da Romano, vicar of the German Emperor, in 1259
The tradition of the palio was uninterrupted until 1860 and only great wars or natural disasters prevented its taking place. It had great fame during the dukedom period.
Usually they competed in the Palio both on the 24th of April to celebrate Saint George, the patron of the town, and on the 15th of August for the Virgin Mary Feast, but there were a lot of special editions oraganized to celebrate other importants events.
We have significant testimonies about its past from a lot of chroniclers of the period. Even the great italian poet Ludovico Ariosto wrote about the Palio of Ferrara in his masterpiece "Orlando Furioso" and the famous painter Francesco del Cossa frescoed the walls of Schifanoia Palace in Ferrara with scenes of the Palio.
The Historical Procession
The Historical Procession of the Palio of Ferrara is formed by about 1000 people wearing typical Ferrara costumes of the 15th century. These people are divided into "dame" (Ladies), "cavalieri" (Lords), "gonfalieri" (people carryng the banner with the symbol of the "contrada" painted or embroided on it), "armigeri" (warriors), "musici" (musicians) and "sbandieratori" (people who execute traditional exercises with flags).
Besides being part of the Palio, the people forming the Historical procession have been present at numerous folk shows, in Italy and abroad as well, making themselves admired specially for their beautiful costumes and the skill of the sbandieratori.
The Palio Today
Presently the Palio of Ferrara takes place once a year, on the last Sunday of May - on the first Sunday of June in case of rain. This date has been chosen in order to recall one of the most famous special events which took place in 1471 to welcome Borso d'Este coming back from Rome where the Pope had conferred the title of Duke of Ferrara upon him.
For these reason all the costumes are made according to the period's style.
The races are run in the historical Piazza Ariostea - the former Piazza Nuova - a square surrounded by numerous buildings which have a great architectural value. The Whole square was planned by Biagio Rossetti, the forerunner of the modern urbanists.
The Palio is based on four races:
|Race run by boys
||Palio di San Romano
|Race run by girls
||Palio di San Paolo
||Palio di San Maurelio
||Palio di San Giorgio
These Palios are banners of silk cloth, painted by well-known painters of Ferrara, which are given as prizes to the winners of the four races.
The eight Contrade (quarters) which compete in the Palio are called:
S. Benedetto, S. Giacomo, S. Giorgio,
S. Giovanni, S. Luca, S. Maria in Vado,
S. Paolo, S.Spirito.