The Contrade of Siena
Siena is divided in 17 historical quarters or “contrade“. Ten of them compete in the Palio di Siena, the most important event in the city.
All the “contrade” are comprised within the city walls and have a church. The people of Siena become “contradaioli“, i.e. citizen of a contrada, through a formal baptism ceremony in the church of the contrada. To be able to call yourself a contradaiolo you must have been born in a Contrada (i.e. your family must be resident in that contrada at the time you were born) or be a descendant of a contradaiolo.
Originally there were 23 contrade, once called “rioni“, but 6 of them (Gallo or Rooster, Leone or Lion, Orso or Bear, Quercia or Oak, Spadaforte or Strong Sword and Vipera or Viper) were suppressed in the 17th century and their territory was included into the territory of other contrade, leaving behind the 17 present ones:
- Aquila (Eagle), Terzo di Città
- Bruco (Caterpillar), Terzo di Camollia
- Chiocciola (Snail), Terzo di Città
- Civetta (Owlet), Terzo di San Martino
- Drago (Dragon), Terzo di Camollia
- Giraffa (Giraffe), Terzo di Camollia
- Istrice (Porcupine), Terzo di Camollia
- Leocorno (Unicorn), Terza di San Martino
- Lupa (She-wolf), Terzo di Camollia
- Nicchio (Shell), Terzo di San Martino
- Oca (Goose), Terzo di Camollia
- Onda (Wave), Terzo di Città
- Pantera (Panther), Terzo di Città
- Selva (Forest), Terzo di Città
- Tartuca (Tortoise), Terzo di Città
- Torre (Tower), Terzo di San Martino
- Valdimontone (Vale of the Ram), Terzo di San Martino
Besides the Palio, the most important event in the life of a Contrada is the so-called Festa Titolare, the Patron Saint’s festival.
It is generally celebrated on the Sunday after the actual Saint’s day, with the exception of the Chiocciola’s festa titolare which is on June 29 and opens the Palio celebrations.