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 post was initially published in February 2017, and was updated in May 2024 for accuracy and additional information.

10 Comments

  1. Thank you both for the post – I had no idea there were other Palios (Pali ?) In Italy. We typically travel in the Fall and Parma would not be too far out of our normal path.

    1. It’s definitely not one of the major Palios or as you put it in plural Pali (?) but it was fun to watch and be part of the neighborhoods. Gary and I must get to Siena one of these days!

  2. I have really appreciated your blogs and especially the latest ones concerning Bologna and Parma. When I visit in the Fall I will be going to both places. Your blogs are always filled with such great information. I really look forward to reading them.

  3. How interesting. I attended Palio di Siena way back in 1990 July. Oh my goodness, lots of fun but quite scary and the crowds! Saw a few horses led into churches for blessings. When the horse and fantino turn a bend in Piazza del Campo, you just hold your breath and pray. Same trip, I also saw The Three Tenors at the Baths of Caracalla – will never ever forget this one!

    1. The Pailo in Siena is still on our list to see, and I agree, even watching it on television it makes me hold my breath! The event at the Baths of Caracalla must have been spectacular! Thanks for commenting!

  4. Ilene
    Hai fatto una buona rivista di Parma- mi piace molto!
    Uno dei più importanti città in Italia per me
    Sei andato al parco Ducale? Quale albergo stai? Hai mangiato al Il Tribunale Ristorante? Il mio preferito 😃
    Ciao. Jeff

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