Like the Guilds
of other European cities such as London
, the contrade of Siena
represent particular districts and ancient trades of the city. Twice a year they compete in the Palio
. There are presently 17, although there have at times been more. Most are named after heraldic animals or icons:
- Aquila (Eagle)
- Drago (Dragon)
- Giraffa (Giraffe)
- Istrice (Porcupine)
- Lupa (Wolf)
- Oca (Duck)
- Selva (Forest, represented by a tree and a rhinocerous)
- Torre (Tower)
Every native of Siena is associated from birth with the contrada of their father, or of the district where they live. At the heart of a contrada is its chapel where babies are baptised into the contrada, horses and riders receive a blessing before the race, and, should fortune smile, the Palio
is carried back and displayed, amid great rejoicing.
Some contrade maintain friendly relationships, but between others (typically those of adjacent districts) there may be a fierce rivalry.