On the first Sunday of January after the Feast Day of Sant’Antonio Abate (January 17), the Palio delle Contrade takes place in Buti, one of Italy’s oldest palios. The first edition technically was in 1961, but the roots stretch back to the 17th century, when the local horse stalls received a blessing on January 17, during the celebrations of Sant’Antonio Abate, protector of animals.
The day of the Palio begins with a “Holy Mass of Horses” followed by a traditional tripe- and wine-based breakfast in the neighborhoods of the town. Midway through the morning, all of the districts parade through the town, reaching the church porch of the Cathedral, where the horses who will run in the Palio are given a blessing. Around 2pm the races begin, and are carried out on a slightly uphill route that’s about 700 meters long. The race has three distinct segments called “batterie” – individual races in which the horses from the seven “contrade” (historic districts) compete divided in groups. The three winners will advance to the final.
In the days leading up to the Palio, in the parish churches that represent each historic district, a special mass followed by a dinner of traditional dishes takes place. Once the festivities get going, throughout all the town streets residents and visitors have the chance to try “trippa alla butese”, the traditional dish from Buti, prepared with beef tripe cooked with sausages, carrots, beans and tomato.