The Palio Di Siena

Photo: Fabio Muzzi/AFP/Getty Images

Twice a year, every July and August, the cobblestones of this Tuscan hill town's Piazza del Campo are covered with a thick layer of dirt, and its stone walls are layered with mattresses, so that 10 mixed-breed horses and their saddleless riders can compete for the honor of their respective districts. Known to the locals as simply Il Palio, the race was first run in 1656 to celebrate an apparition of the Virgin Mary. It lasts 90 seconds but generates feuds that continue for decades.

This year, Contrada of Forest jockey Silvano Mulas and his horse Fedora Saura (left) won the run.

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