Instead of visiting the overly crowded, very touristy sites or events in Italy, try something comparable but more relaxed and less filled with tourists. Travel against the grain... travel the less beaten path... Trey to live the Italian life along with the locals. Avoid tourists at all costs. Throw away your "must see" lists!
This will be a new feature here in Grand Voyage Italy. Here is the first installment of INSTEAD OF VISITING THERE, GO HERE...
Instead of visiting the Palio races in Siena...
Visit the Palio di Asti horse races instead.
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Siena’s palio horse races are held in July and August in the height of the tourist season, and are the most famous festival in Italy. Google "palio" and it only finds articles about the one in Siena in southern Tuscany. But if you wait until September, you can avoid the tourist high season and enjoy the palio in Asti instead. Asti is a beautiful town in the northwest part of Italy in the Piedmonte, within the triangle formed by Milan, Genoa and Turin. Asti has more races, more horses, and a dramatic and colorful procession of 1,000 flag-throwers and characters in medieval dress. It’s a more sumptuous and full day for spectators.
Many think palio means horse race in Italian, but it literally means grabs. It refers to the winning cloth that a competition offers as first prize to the winner of such races... not just horse races, either. So, in this horse race the cloth, or colors of the winner is what's up for grabs.
The Palio is a traditional Italian festival of medieval origin that culminates with a bareback horse race. The race has been run each year in Asti since the year 1275. The earliest recorded race dates from the third quarter of the 13th century. Since 1988, the race has taken place in a triangular piazza in the center of Asti, the Piazza Alfieri, on every third Sunday in September. The Asti Palio is equally as beautiful and exciting but not as well known as the Palio in Siena.
You can stand to watch the race for free in Asti... 5,000 spaces are set aside for this. If you want to watch the race in more comfort, you can reserve numbered stall seats for a decent price up to a year in advance of the race.
Race day is much busier than in Siena, with more racing and more pageantry. And as night falls, the party really begins with festive street parties and special events held in local trattorias. Try some of the local wines... Barbera d’Asti (an amazing red) or some of the famous sparkling Asti DOC (forget the "Spumonte"... many are bogus).
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