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Palio of Ferrara

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Palio of Ferrara

In Ferrara, May is synonymous to a single word: Palio. And not just any palio, but one of the oldest in the world. 

A month in which, walking around the city, you may come across characters dressed in richly decorated Renaissance costumes. Flags of the different 'contrade' (districts) brighten up the streets and squares, creating an absolutely evocative atmosphere. 

Visiting Ferrara during the Palio will give you the pleasure of experiencing the splendors of 'Ferrara City of the Renaissance'. A unique opportunity to discover the city and its main historical event! From historical parades to the competitions of musicians and flag wavers, to horse races in Piazza Ariostea.

Ferrara Palio Piazza Ariostea

History of Palio

The Ferrara Palio was codified for the first time in 1279, but the tradition probably started in the city about twenty years earlier. The origin of this event seems to date back to 1259, the year of the Battle of Cassano. In this battle the Marchese Azzo VII Novello d'Este defeated the Ghibelline company of Ezzelino da Romano.

Originally, the Palio race was held at two different times of the year: on the first occasion during the celebrations of St George, the city's patron saint, on 23 April; on the other in celebration of Our Lady of the Assumption, on 15 August.

Originally, the Palio, now called Palio Antico, involved several races that were disputed along the ancient riverside of the Po (currently via Ripagrande/via Carlo Mayr). There was a wide variety of competitions - between men, women, horses and donkeys - in which everyone could enter to win the pallium prize. 

The Palio was played uninterruptedly until 1600, after that some races were replaced by parades and slowly the tradition disappeared.

The Palio was finally revived in the 1930s with the intention of giving new luster to the city's traditions: the aesthetic apparatus was fixed according to the frescoes in Palazzo Schifanoia and the races were recovered through a philological study of historical documents. The modern edition of the Palio di Ferrara is run on the last Sunday in May, in memory of the extraordinary Palio raced in 1471 to celebrate the investiture of Borso d'Este as the first Duke of Ferrara. This renewed tradition was quickly established in the city and, after an interruption during the war and post-war period, was resumed uninterruptedly from 1968.

Today, the four races of the Ferrara Palio still take place in the ancient Piazza Nova, the charming Piazza Ariostea: it is here that you can experience the atmosphere of such an intense and heartfelt event in the city.  On the last Sunday in May the square is adorned with the colors of the 8 contrade (districts) that compete for victory in the various races ('putti'-young man-, 'putte' -young woman-, donkeys and horses).

The magic of the ancient Palio di Ferrara is waiting for you in the city of the Renaissance par excellence!
To keep up-on-date and get more information visit

Organized by Ente Palio della città di Ferrara.

Ph. organization website