The Palio in Parma is quite unique - ouritalianjourney.com
Palio di Parma graphic, ouritalianjourney.com

Ahhh the Palio di Parma! First of all, you have probably heard of the famous Palio horserace held twice yearly in Siena, Italy. It is an amazing event; one which we still have not yet attended but is on our list… as it probably is for many people.

It seems other regions of Italy also have Palio races. When we stayed in Parma, we noticed barricades in Piazza Garibaldi. Such good timing on our part… Parma’s version of the Palio began the same weekend!

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The Palio di Parma Event

The Palio di Parma is a yearly festival held in the northern Italian town of Parma. The event traces back to the ancient “Scarlet Run”. This event is usually held on the third weekend of September. Although it’s not quite as exciting as the one in Siena, if you’re in the area – you might want to check it out. Always check an official town calendar to know what and when things are happening.

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The Palio di Parma has been reorganized by The Italian Sports Centre in Parma since 1978There are three-speed races, a donkey (children riding), a women’s race (the Green Cloth Stroke), and a race of men (the Scarlet Corsa). Each race represents one of the five gates in the historic center of Parma. This would be similar to the “contrada’s” in Siena. Perhaps a better way to identify what I am referring to is a “neighborhood.” The donkey racing was quite amusing as most of the donkeys decided they didn’t want to race. Those disgruntled donkeys got pushed most of the way!

The women’s and men’s races were what we know as “relay” races where each team of five passes the “baton” to the next person. We were standing mostly with the blue section (New Door) so we were rooting for them in this Palio di Parma!

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Other Events of the Palio di Parma

Furthermore, in addition to the races, there are costume parades and battles of medieval warriors. Each of the five gates of the city is represented by a different group of flag wavers. These gates also have different colors and emblems.

I love the art of flag-throwing in any medieval town in Italy. When I hear drums, I will always search out to find the location – just to see if there are also flag-throwers amongst them.

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Here is the color breakdown for the Palio di Parma:

MottoColorsChurch Symbol 
EagleGreenChurch of the Holy Cross 
MottoColorsChurch Symbol 
WolfBlack & WhiteChurch of the Santissima Annunziata 
MottoColorsChurch Symbol 
UnicornBlueSant’Uldarico 
MottoColorsChurch Symbol 
DragonYellowChurch of St. Sepulchre 
MottoColorsChurch Symbol 
LionRedChurch of San Francesco del Prato 
Parma's different porta map


Editor’s Note:  This article was initially published on April 13, 2023, and was updated in February 2024 for accuracy and additional information.

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