Contrade of Siena

From medieval times the neighborhoods of Siena have been divided into contrade. Even today, Sienese people are born both into a country, a city, and a contrade, such as the contrade of the Selva (forest), or Civetta (little owl) or Istrice (porcupine; can you see the quills?). There is intense competition between the contrade, which reaches its height on July 2nd and August 16th when there are horse races, the famous palio of Siena. The race takes place around a course in the well-known square of the city, the fan-shaped Piazza del Campo. Each contrade has its banner or flag; this is a picture of a display of them. The winning contrade received another banner, literally a palio (from Latin pallium), which gives the race its name.