Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 19, 2023

Palio della Rana…yes, Frog Race

I have wanted to see the Palio della Rana for a few years, but Covid got in the way. This year it was back. The small town of Fermignano in Le Marche turned on the fun, and the frogs. Don’t worry, frogs are not forced down a race track. They are placed carefully on flat wheelbarrows and are pushed down the track.

It isn’t quite that simple of course, this is Italy and the race is turned into a 3 day event with costumes, music, flag throwing, archery and much more. The frogs are silent participants.

We were only in Fermignano for the final day of the event. We even missed the morning activities, including the Mass and the Benediction of the frogs. We did arrive for lunch and the actual race heats and final.

Driving into Fermignano we were stunned and delighted by the gorgeous scenery.

Fermignano dates back to 200BC but not a lot of the old town is still in place. Ponte di Fermignano, possibly from Roman times, crosses the Metauro River, and makes for a fine entrance into the town. The tower beside the bridge is a medieval construction, remodelled in the 15th century during the reign of Duke Federico of Montefeltro.

It is famous as the birthplace of Donato Bramante, the  Renaissance architect, and the Palio which takes place each year on the first Sunday after Easter.

We arrived in time to see the band heading off down the main street. We would see this band many times during the afternoon. They did a marvellous job.

Some participants headed off for lunch.


Each of the 7 contrade, areas of town, compete in the Palio and each one has a place for lunch. 3 hours was set aside for lunch.


We spotted the cariole, wheelbarrows, to carry the frogs.

The starting point for the race.

The track.

At around 3.00pm the festivities began and the participants gathered.

The MC.

The chap in charge of the race.

The vet keeping an eye on the frogs in the blue plastic coat.

The band marched in.

They marched back again.

Drummers lined up to accompany the Sbandieratore from Gubbio. I do love flag throwing.


The frogs were lined up.

Last year’s winner handed over the trophy.

The frog carriers lined up to collect their charges.

The parade began. The trophy was carried ahead.

The chaps waiting to collect the frogs got into place at the finish line.

The heats began. The frog has to be on the cariola. If it jumps off the runner has to stop, pick up the frog and place it back on the cariola. Once across the line the frog is picked up and taken away. I’m not sure how many times the frog has to participate.

Here are some random frog photos.

The frogs do jump off often. The runner has to keep an eye on the frog at all times and be careful not to stand on it if it hops off. One runner put the frog back only to notice the poor thing was upside down and he carefully turned it over. I’m not entirely sure the frogs enjoy the race.

After the heats there was a race of the “Putti”, cherubs, or in this case, children.


This little girl won, to the delight of the crowd.

After another parade and some more flag throwing the final race began. Some participants really suited their costumes.

Looking out for the winner.

The chap in the blue and white went on to win. His frog was just hanging on.

This one had a difficult frog and walked in a bit behind the others.

We spent several hours in a freezing wind with occasional showers so we didn’t stick around for the presentations, dinner and the late night fireworks. I’m sure everyone had a great time.

I love the enthusiasm in these wonderful celebrations. I have been to quite a few over the years, some more than once. I would definitely go back to the Palio della Rana, with a bit of luck in better weather.

Here are couple of fun events I have been to.

The Race of the Ceri in Gubbio.

The race of the candles in Gubbio

The donkey Palio in Torrita di Siena.

Run donkey run

The donkeys appear

The festival of the thrush in Montalcino.

Who won the archery competition?




  1. Wow what an amazing event to see!
    I love how even a simple frog race can become a 3 day festival with such ceremony- would have loved to see it.

    • It was great fun. I love the enthusiasm of everyone involved.

  2. What a fun & fabulous day you had at this festival. The costumes are simply marveous. Loved all your photos. We enjoyed a flag throwing competition in Asti & remember the excitement it generated. Beautiful scenery on your drive in.

    • My first experience of flag throwing was in Alba at the truffle festival. I love it!

  3. What great fun!! Who knew? The little girl with her vividly green frog was especially entertaining. Thanks for sharing another great event; Life in Italy!!

    • My apologies Deb we were in Alba also for truffle festival. Great fun. That night we enjoyed a truffle dinner & were invited to join a wedding reception. We couldnt understand all the speeches but had a fantastic time at the reception.

      • Alba is a lovely town. We are going back next week.

    • It was a fun event. These things are done well in Italy.

  4. So colourful – I love the enthusiasm of these events and a bit of flag flinging is always great

  5. You always discover unique, eccentric and fun events occurring throughout Italy. Thank you for sharing your explorations and pictures. Myself? Dreaming of returning to Italy.

    • I wanted to go as soon as I heard about this one.

  6. What a hilarious way to acknowledge and pay our respects to those essential contributors to planetary health — frogs! We should start it here?

    • I love frogs! This festival was a must.

  7. What a wonderful display of pomp and ceremony to celebrate frogs! You should initiate something like this in Queensland for our dear old cane toads, perhaps.

    • Frogs are so much nicer than toads!

  8. A wonderful and colorful festival. Thank you for sharing.

    • It was great fun. I was happy to finally see this one.

  9. Great coverage Debra

    • Thank you. We lined up early to get a good position.

  10. What glorious fun and beautiful costumes. You have to love a culture that alots three hours for lunch and takes their fun seriously. I imagine the runners have to be more fleet of foot than their little running mates.

    • It was fun, possibly not for the frogs.

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