Palio di Siena, Tuscany
Italy hosts many a spectacular and entertaining festival, but if you are in the vicinity of beautiful Siena around the dates of July 2 or August 16 (yes, those precise dates, every year no matter the day), then get prepared for Il Palio – the most exciting horse race you will ever see. Forget the Melbourne Cup, this race has 10 jockeys dressed in appropriate colours, representing 10 of the 17 different “contrade” or city wards, who ride bareback circling three times around the town Piazza del Campo, on which they lay a temporary layer of thick dirt. Sometimes the jockeys are thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and despite the fact that, once they get going, the race is a mere 90 seconds, thousands of locals and spectators crowd in and around the Piazza to watch the fiercely competitive race twice a year. Having witnessed myself this year, I am not surprised, and I dare say I will be back again!