The stable is a sacred place where the horse is kept during the Palio of Siena.
The Palio is four days from now, so it’s time to draw the ten horses that will compete in the race. It’s a tense morning. The horses are divided into groups and run the three laps under the watchful eyes of the captains and the many spectators gathered in Piazza del Campo.. At the end of the so called ‘batterie di selezione’ (qualifying races), the captains choose the ten horses. This brings us to one of the most intense moments of the Palio. The ‘tratta’is when each contrada is randomly assigned a horse. At which point, amidst songs of joy or hope, the horse is led by the ‘barbaresco’ and the people of the Contrada to its home for the four days of the Palio: the stables.
The stables are often located in the most peculiar and distinctive corners of the Contrada’s territory and they’re off-limits and hidden from view. It’s a sacred and inaccessible place, except by a select few including the barbaresco (the stable manager, who never leaves the horse), and the jockey.
In the past they used real stables, often lent by carters or private individuals to the Contrada, which only had them for the four days of the festival. Today, these rooms are dedicated exclusively to the horse on the days of the Palio, and allow it to receive all the necessary veterinary care in addition to loving care. On the other hand, what hasn’t changed over time is its function as the nerve centre of the Contrada, almost a sanctuary where the true and absolute protagonist of the Palio rests.
The stables are so precious to the Contrade that traditionally on 17 January, the day of Saint Anthony Abbot, the patron saint of animals, they are blessed with a special ritual, often followed by a small auspicious refreshment with the whole neighbourhood.
Where: each contrada has its own stable within the territory
When: the stables are open only on Palio days (if the Contrada is competing), but can only be seen form the outside.