Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 30, 2018

Let the race begin

Crowds gather early to get a seat for the Palio dei Somari, the donkey race. With all the pomp and pageantry it is easy to forget that the donkey race is the reason for the event.

We took our place in the stands and tried to keep warm in the freezing wind that refused to go away. The sun appeared from behind clouds occasionally, but the wind made sure the temperature stayed low.

Palio dei Somari 2018

The costumed participants marched in to loud cheers.

Palio dei Somari 2018

Then the donkeys arrived.

Palio dei Somari 2018

A group of children stepped onto the stage and the draw for the donkeys was held. Each donkey was allotted to a team and the coloured rosettes were attached.

Palio dei Somari 2018

One donkey decided it might be lunch.

Palio dei Somari 2018

The heats began. Two donkeys and their riders had to run 3 times around the course.

Palio dei Somari 2018

Donkeys don’t always do as they are expected. They stop if they feel like it, turn around and go inthe opposite direction or throw their rider off. It all makes for a fun spectacle.

Palio dei Somari 2018

After the heats the winners of the best tamburini (drummers) and sbandieratori (flag throwers) were announced. We think that last year’s winners were on the stage to present the awards for this year. It was not always easy to follow everything as the sound was not good and my Italian is not good enough to catch everything.

Palio dei Somari 2018

There was great excitement when the winners of the flag throwing were announced. The green team won. The young woman who was part of the team was thrilled.

Palio dei Somari 2018

Then there was another race with all of the donkeys. After 3 false starts they were off and running.

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

Palio dei Somari 2018

I have no idea who won. Somehow it doesn’t really matter, just being there and being part of the event is fun.


  1. The photos look really fun!

    • It is a wonderful event.

  2. Love watching the flag throwers and drummers – a marvellous spectacle – it looked like great fun

    • Me too! The flag throwers are my favourites, but the drummers are great too.

  3. I adore donkeys-they occupy a big space in my heart. It looks less stressful on them than horse racing (which I am not into at all).

    • While this race is taken seriously, I don’t think the donkeys are put under too much stress. I saw one rider give a gentle pat on the neck of his donkey, who had stopped completely and refused to go on

  4. Oh my my … Leave to the Italians. Sienna probably got the idea for their race from this town!

    • I think Siena came first. This race started in 1966.

  5. What fun. The donkeys don’t look as what they have that ‘winning’ streak in them….though the riders probably did.

    • I’m sure the don’t care at all.

  6. That last photo is the winner! I love it. And i love the donkeys and the costumes – it’s easy to imagine that the costumed participants have stepped through a crack in time.

    • It is very easy to get swept up in the moment.

  7. hi no

  8. Oh I gosh, donkeys! I love it. Thanks for sharing your day.

  9. Stupid predictive text! *Ohmigosh

  10. What a hoot! Let’s organise one in Australia. Would we be so lucky to get permits from the council, RSPCA, Department of Agriculture, WorkSafe. Insurance Broker, … ?

    • It is great fun. You have a track at Curly Flat. It could work.

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