Palio di Buti 2018

The magic of an ancient horse race near Pisa

21 January 2018

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21st January 21, 2018 sees the return in the province of Pisa of the Palio di Buti, one of the longest running Tuscany horse races, alongside the Siena Palio. The Palio di Buti takes place in one of the most beautiful areas of the region, just a few kilometers from the astonishingly beautiful city of Pisa. Buti, Italy, is a charming village on the slopes of Mount Serra, where time seems to have stood still since the Middle Ages. The medieval castle, the streets and the stone walls are the source of the charm of bygone days that permeates Buti, Pisa. A charm that, as expected, is heightened and magnified on the day of winter in Tuscany, Italy, when the atmosphere in Buti, Tuscany, hots up thanks to a truly exciting and compelling event: the competitive spirit of the race, the cheering of the Buti’s inhabitants and the fascination of the historical re-enactment are combined in a truly unmissable mix.

HISTORY. The Palio di Buti in Tuscany dates back to the 17th century and was born out of the peasants’ custom of blessing the animals on the occasion of the celebrations dedicated to St. Anthony the Abbot. According to chronicles collected since the 1800s, the same horses used to work the fields were actually engaged in the Buti horse race itself. The celebrations included, in addition to the 'Messa dei Cavallai', a community meal whose highlight was the 'trippa alla Butese', a typical dish based on beef tripe, sausages, carrots, beans and tomatoes that was accompanied by large doses of red wine and brandy. Despite being halted at times during the two world wars and undergoing several changes to its practices, the Palio di Buti and its traditions have been kept alive until the present day with the horse race still being at the heart of the whole event.

PALIO DI BUTI TODAY. Today’s Palio delle contrade di Buti is basically the version that took shape in the Sixties. The farmers’ horses have been replaced by ones better suited to racing that are hired by the Buti districts for the event together with the jockey, and an evocative historical parade has also been added. This takes place every year on the first Sunday after 17th January, the day of the feast of Saint Anthony the Abbot. The Palio di Buti 2018 will therefore be held on 21st January, although, as it is often the case with this type of celebrations, collateral events will begin long before! If you have the opportunity to spend a few days in Tuscany on the occasion of the Buti horse race, you might be interested to know that 13th January, the Saturday preceding the race, is when the Buti walking dinner will be staged. This is a food and wine event during which you will be able to taste some of the best dishes of the local tradition amongst the districts of Buti. There will also be live music and a horse-drawn cart touring the village to entertain adults and children alike! More dinners and side events will take place in the Buti districts throughout the week preceding what, given the proximity to the city of the leaning tower, could also be labelled, in a similar fashion, the Pisa Palio! But let's now turn our attention to the programme of the main event - whose staging is the end result of fervent preparations covering a whole year. For the latest updates, make sure you visit the Palio di Buti official site: paliodibuti.org.

  • 8.00. The 'Messa dei Cavallai' takes place, followed by the traditional tripe dinner staged in the districts but also the restaurants of the village. Even if this is the famous Buti traditional dish, as an early morning choice this feast can be a daunting prospect! But all the ancient traditions have their own explanation: this heavy dish accompanied by good wine is what you will need to help you last the day in the crisp air of the outdoors.
  • 10.30. The Buti historical parade through the main streets of the town kicks off. The teams of each of Palio di Buti contrade, led by the horse and the jockey competing in the race in just a few hours, assemble in front of the Church where each one of the Buti districts will stage their own historical re-enactment. These will be evaluated by a special committee which will nominate a winning district, this way rewarding the yearlong hard preparations.
  • 14.00. It’s time for the operations that will lead to the event that throughout Buti and in nearby areas is awaited for a whole year, to begin. Tuscany horse race is a serious matter, not just in Siena, even in this small village in the Pisa Hills traditions are adhered to and so the cheering is what you get for the big events. But how does it take shape? At the heart of the horse race of Buti are the districts and seven of them join the competition: San Francesco, San Nicolao, la Croce, Pievania, Ascensione, San Rocco and San Michele. The night before, the districts competing in the play-off races called 'batterie' are drawn. In each one, three districts from the total of seven face each other, with the seventh one called 'la Signora' - due to the privilege given by the blindfolded goddess – competing against the winners of the playoffs in the final race that will decree the winner. As for the Palio di Buti route, it is called 'alla romana', this meaning it is not a circular route, starting instead at one point in the village and arriving at another along a 700 m long track, shaped like an elongated 'S' letter and covered with 40 cm of sand mixed with tuff. The winner conquers the palio or 'cencio', a cloth painted by famous artists, and takes it in triumph to their district where the crazy celebrations continue in full swing.

The Palio di Buti 2017 was won by the Contrada de La Croce, if you are eager to know who will be this year’s winner you will have to plan a few days in Tuscany. The best solution is to book one of our hotels in Pisa and, since you are based there, why not join some of our tours in the city of the Leaning Tower?

By Insidecom Editorial Staff