The Palio in Parma is quite unique -

Palio di Parma

Palio di Parma graphic

You have no doubt heard of the famous Palio horserace held twice a year in Sienna, Italy. It is an amazing event; one which we still have not yet attended but is on our “bucket list”. It seems other areas of Italy also have Palio races. We happen to see barricades being put up in Piazza Garibaldi. We then discovered that Parma’s version was being held that day!

The Palio takes place in the afternoon. After the performance, the five groups of flag wavers move the festivities to Piazza Garibaldi for the parade and races.

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Since 1978, the Palio di Parma has been reorganized by The Italian Sports Centre in Parma. There 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. The donkey racing was quite amusing as some of the donkeys decided they didn’t want to race. Those 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. We won 2 out of the 3 races this year!!


In addition to the races, there are costume parades and battles of medieval warriors. Each of the five gates of the city is also represented by a different group of flag wavers who perform several times in the two days of festivities.

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Here is the color breakdown:

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