- GLOSSARY -
by Helen Elizabeth Sadler


Print this page and bring it with you for the Palio festivities.



Alfiere: performs a ritual joust in the ceremonies using the bandiera as a weapon.

Alleata: friendly Contrada.

A pelo: to ride bare-back, as in the Palio.

Alzata: performed by the "alfiere" during the flag-waving. Consists of rolling the flag around its poll and then tossing it in the air and catching it again as it comes down.

Avversaria: rival Contrada.

Balzana: name of the emblem of Siena. Black and white.

Bandiera: refers to the flags of the Sienese Contrade. The bandiera is divided into two parts: the flag pole with a lead weight at one end so as to cause a vertical fall when thrown in the air; the silk the cloth of the flag is made from a very fine fabric and is decorated with the emblem of the Contrada.

Baratto: performed by two alfieri during the flag-waving. The two alfieri perform the flag-waving and then exchange flags, tossing them in the air.

Barbaresco: groom of the horse that will run in the Palio. He is not to be confused with the fantino who rides the horse in the race.

Barbero: (1) horse that runs in the Palio race. (2) Ball-shaped decoration made from wood or of earthenware, hand painted in the colors of the Contrada.

Benedizione del cavallo: in the Contrada's church 15/15.30 of the day of the Palio. It is the only chance in which the horse is received in the church and blessed.

Beverone: mixture of coffee and sugar which some years ago, was given to the horses before the race.

Bordello: young person who distinguishes himself during the days of the Palio by demonstrating his passion for his Contrada.

Braccialetto: hand-painted wooden electric street light used to light the neighborhoods on the occasion of a celebration.

Bombolone: excellent horse.

Brenna: slow horse.

Bufalata: tournament of buffalos that the Sienese engaged in until the end of the 18th century.

Caldana: hangover.

Camarlengo: man who takes custody of the money for the Contrada.

Campanina: (1) bell found in the oratory of the Contrada. This bell announces the victory of the Contrada and sounds throughout the evening of the festival. (2) Classical object of earthenware that carries the colors of the Contrade. It is acquired in the yearly festival, Santa Lucia, on December 13.

Campanone: see "Sunto".

Canape: thick rope which serves as a starting gate for the horses and is then lowered for the start. The mossiere tries to keep the horses aligned behind this rope.

Capitana: name attributed to the Contrada of Onda.

Capitano: man or woman who directs and administers the Contrada during the days of the Palio.

Cappotto: to win the Palio two times consecutively in the same year in July and August, although the term has been generalized to include other victories and prizes.

Carriera: the race around the perimeter of the Campo for the Palio.

Carroccio: triumphal war-cart, symbol of communal liberty. The Carroccio closes the historical procession carrying the "Cencio".

Casato: uphill curve on the Piazza race course. The historical procession enters into the Piazza by way of the Casato.

Cencio: name of the painted silk flag, the true Palio. In July it is painted by a Sienese artist. In August by a more nationally renowned artist. Interested artists submit a drawing based on a theme chosen by the City Counsel. The Counsel then selects the best drawing. Sometimes the «Palio» becomes an object of true artistic value. Artists such as Guttuso, Purificato, and Botero have painted the Palio.

Cero: offering of the Cero is a very ancient ritual honoring the Madonna. Il takes place the l5th of August each year. (The Festival of the Assunta).

Chiarina: ancient trumpet used to announce various events.

Cittino: name affectionately given for the newly won Palio.

Colonnini: columns that are all around the inside that forms the shell of the Piazza del Campo.

Comparsa: during the historical parade, the series of routines performed by Contrada members dressed in Medieval costumes.

Contradaiolo: person who belongs to the Contrada, a supporter and sympathizer with its causes.

Cordellina: illicit accord between a group of persons usually against another Contrada.

Cuffia: name given to a Contrada that has not won the Palio in a number of years.

Daccelo: the cry of the Contrada members, belows the balcony where the Captains watch the race, asking to receive the painted silk banner or real "Palio".

Dare i cavalli: assigning of horses to the participating Contrade by means of a draw. These horses will then run the Palio for the Contrada they are assigned to (see "Tratta").

Dirigenza: group of Contrada members which govern or lead the Contrada.

Drappellone: the Palio flag, hand painted and made from silk.

Duce: principal character of each Contrada in the historical parade.

Economo: Contrada member who is responsible for organizing the Contrada buildings, organizing the "giro" or visit to the other Contrada's, the ensemble of routines of the Contrada in the Piazza, and the care and mounting of the drums and flags.

Entrone: grand courtyard of the community building (Palazzo Communale) from which the 10 horses running the Palio enter onto the track.

Estrazione: when there is the drawing of the Contradas that will run in the Palio.

Extra-moenia: outside of the town walls.

Fare buio: when the "Mossa" is too long.

Fare pulito: when the city street sweepers clean the dirt track before the trials and before the Palio.

Fazzoletto: it is tied around the Contrada memebers' necks and indicates which Contrada they belong to.

Fiancare: jockeys do this at the start of the race.

Filusč: game played with glasses turned upside down... the one who errs... drinks!

Gabella: magistracy of ancient Siena.

Giro: visit paid to all of the other Contradas (except the rival's Contrada), the day that the Patron Saint of the Contrada is celebrated.

Gotto: glass of wine.

Gualdrappa: cloth that is draped over the back of the horses during the parade.

Imperiale: title given to the Contrada of the Giraffa.

Infamona: name popularhy given to the Oca Contrada.

Maestro di Campo: type of director that during the historical procession of the Contrade regulates the movement of the marchers. He is helped by the Rotellini di Palazzo.

Magistrato delle Contrade: the highest level agreement made by the priors of the 17 Contrade.

Mangino: represents the Contrada, along with the Capitano, in negotiations made with the other "Contrade" on the eve of the Palio.

Maria mater Gratie: song sung by the Contrada members in honour of the Vergine Mary fatto dai contradaioli on the day of the yearly "giro" in the church of the sister Contradas. It is also sung on the occasion of a Palio victory after the race on July 2 and August 16.

Masgalano: prize that is given to the best coordinated and outfitted Contrada performing in the historical procession. The name has Spanish origins, «mas galan» means very elegant.

Materassi: mattress placed horizontally to absorb the horses' impact at the curve at S.Martino

Mazziere: person that takes part in the historical procession.

Montura: costumes made from velvet and precious fabrics which are worn by the Contrada members who parade in the Piazza and participate in the yearly "giro". It is important to note that the costumes worn in the Piazza and those worn for the "giro" are quite differnt.

Mortaretto: small noisy fire-cracker that the 10 participating Contrade light off as they come out from the entrance of the public building and begin their march in the historical procession. Three bursts of the mortaretto announce the victory of the Palio.

Mossa: point at which the 10 participting Contrade gather for the departure.

Mossiere: the starter. The man who is assigned the difficult task of aligning the horses between the starting lines before the start of the race.

Nerbare: act of hitting the horse and the jockey, in front of the jockey or the one trying to pass, with the whip.

Nerbo: whip with which the fantino strike their horses in an attempt to stir their horses for the race.

Nerbo legato: rules of conduct that are followed during the race. Their observance is especiahly important when the horses line up to start the race. At this point, violators risk disqualification (opposite Nerbo Sciolto).

Nonna: name for the Contrada suffering the « cuffia », that is, that has not won the Palio in several years.

Otto: low waving of the flag by the flag waver.

Palchi: wooden and iron structure, put up all round the Piazza del Campo to provide seating for the spectators (paid seating).

Parata: jockey who cuts off the horse and jockey of another Contrada

Partiti: secret negotioations made by the mangini, the captain and the Contrada delegates the eve of the Palio for the purpose of creating an alliance of favor or disfavor against the other Contrade.

Passeggiata Storica: the historical procession that precedes the running of the race.

Piatto: plate of solid silver put on the high part of the pole of the Palio flag. « Cena del Piatto » victory dinner of the "contradaioli" that have won the Palio. The winning horse, the jockey and the elders of the city sit at the head of the table.

Piazza del Campo: one of the most beautiful squares in all the world. It is the site of the Palio race.

Piazza: for the Sienese, this means « la Piazza » or « il Campo » where the Palio is run.

Priora: title given to the Contrada of the Civetta.

Priore: directs the activities of the Contrada during the year but during the days of the Palio gives up control to the Captain and the Mangini.

Pugna: antique game, much like boxing, that the Sienese played in the middle of the Piazza. It was a bare-fisted free-for-all and there were always many wounded and sometimes even deaths.

Prove: begins on the evening of the "tratta" of the horses, after the horses have been assigned to the Contradas and end on the morning of the Palio, and serve to prepare the horses and jockeys for the race.

Prove di notte: is run at 5 a.m. two days before the "tratta" to verify (on behalf of the owners of the horses) the conditions of certain horses.

Purga: it is said that the defeated and the Contrada members of the rival of the winning Contrada "take this bitter cure".

Rincorsa: of the 10 Contrade that run the Palio, nine are aligned by the Mossiere between the ropes while the lOth stays outside and has the task of starting the race by galloping past the "verrocchino".

Ringollata: to win the a Palio shortly after ones' rival has won a Palio. For example: if one wins the August Palio and the rival wins the July or August Palio of the following year.

Rione: the Contrada's territory.

Rotellini di Palazzo: accompany the historical procession. Together with the Maestro di Campo they collaborate in keeping the paraders in order.

Salva: agreement between the Captains to give to another captain money in the case of Victory.

San Martino: the most difficult downhill curve.

Sbandierata: the flag-waving ceremony performed by the "alfiere" of the 17 "Contrade" during the historical procession.

Scosso: horse that finishes the Palio race without a jockey. If such a horse arrives at the finish line first, the victory is valid because the "Spennacchiera" of the Contrada is attached to the horse's skull

Seggio: the counsel of the Contrada.

Sgabelli: Sienese term indicating a Contrada which is highly infuenced or undermined by the doings of another Contrada more influential than they are... used as an insult for a Contrada not able to stand alone on its own principles for participating in the Palio.

Societą: place where the Contrada memebers meet, play and do other activities, during the year.

Signori del Brio: delegation of Noble Sienese citizens elected by the people. Finances and supervises the Palio festiviuies. This delegation (now called "Deputati della festa") no longer finances the festival.

Soprallasso: parade horse ridden by the jockey of the Contrada during the historical procession so as not to fatigue the «barbero».

Soppresse: suppressed Contrade. There were six Contrade suppressed: Vipera, Leone, Gallo, Quercia, Orso, Spadaforte.

Spennacchiera: decoration with the colors of the Contrada put on the head of the horse.

Spiegare: to open the flag to play hommage and perform flag-waving.

Staff Palio: group of Contrada memeber that decides the strategy of the race with the Captain.

Stalla: stable where the horse is lodged in the Contrada's territory.

Stamburata: drum roll that accompanies the "sbandierata".

Stecconata: deliniates the tufo race track and is made from wood.

Sunto: historical name of the grand bell of the Torre del Mangia. The tower itself is also called "Sunto".

Terzo: Siena is divided topographicahly into thirds. They are called: Terzo di S. Martino, Terzo di Cittą, Terzo di Camollia.

Tratta dei cavalli: public drawing of the horses for the purpose of assigning them to the 10 participating Contrade. It is completed every year the 29th of June and the l3th of August. After it has been assigned, the horse cannot be changed even in the event of injury during the trials. If an accident disables a horse, that Contrada does not participate.

Tondino: slow walk around the track to lessen the tension before the start or "Mossa".

Torre del Mangia: high tower that stands above the palazzo Comunale of Siena.

Tratta: first procedure during the days of the Palio. It takes place on either June 29 or 13 August. It is a parade of the horses selected by the city's veternarians to participate in the selection of the 10 horses that will run in the Palio race. All horses are ridden to determine their suitability to the track and their state of health.

Tritello: mulitiple falls with pile-ups and serious damages caused.

Trofea: hangover.

Troiao: piece of junk.

Trombone: excellent horse.

Tufo: earth that is packed down to form the track on which the Palio is run (it is put down a day before the trials begin and removed the day after the Palio is run).

Turbina: hangover.

Verrocchio: place where the "mossiere" is posted to see the parade in motion.

Verrocchino: tool that keeps the second canape pulled taught.

Vicario: important role within the Contrada.

Zucchino: helmet worn by each fantino to protect him in the event of a fall or from the blows of the whip struck by the opposing fantinos.