The Palio di Siena Horse Race

Quantum of Solace, the most recent James Bond movie, was filmed in more locations than any preceding it. Hopping around from place to place, one could barely keep up with where Bond was going let alone the plot details. Even amongst the bad reviews that Quantum of Solace has received, I thought the opening scene in Siena, Italy was absolutely amazing.

The first chase scene takes place in the middle of one of Siena’s most famous sporting events, the Palio di Siena Horse Race. Twice a year thousands of spectators, from all over the world, fill the Piazza del Campo to witness the most famous palio in Italy. Ten of the seventeen contrade run in the bi-annual race held on July 2 and August 16. Seven run by right (since they were not included in the previous competition) and 3 are drawn at random. The jockeys ride the horses bareback and wear the colors and designs of their contrada. Whips are used, not only for their own horses, but also to agitate the other horses and riders. The first horse to cross the finish line, with or without its jockey, is the winner and the horse that finishes second is considered the loser. Following the race is a dramatic pageant known as the Corteo Storico that includes flagwavers dressed in medieval costumes.

Siena has long been separated into 17 contrade, which are administrative districts within the city. Festivals, baptisms, marriages, and church holidays are all celebrated separately within each contrada, which makes the horse race one of the high points of contrade rivalry. If you would like to live out your Bond fantasy (at least one of them), Siena, Italy and the Palio di Siena Horse Race is not a bad place to start.