In January tourists and locals descend on the outskirts of Pisa and the town of Buti for the traditional Palio di Buti, where horses representing each of Italy’s regions race against each other through the cobbled streets. The race with a long-standing history, dates back to the 17th century. Preceding the main events, locals dress in period costume for a parade of the previous winners and a re-enactment of the festival’s origins in front of the local churchyard. Then a series of horse races take place throughout the afternoon across a 750-metre uphill course, in order to determine an ultimate champion.
Pisa International (aka Galileo Galileo Airport) is the nearest to Buti, which is less than half an hour away by car. Buses and trains also reach the town from Pisa. The event starts from 8am with a church Mass in which riders and horses are blessed, the historic parade is from 10.30am and the actual horse races normally start from around 2pm. Following the presentations, a traditional feast is available and the evening entertainment commences.
With the exception of attending the church mass, this is an outdoor event in the cold winter months so wrap up warm. If you’re wishing to join the locals in costume, then look into how they dress to represent the races 17th century origins. This is however a modern take on tradition, so arrive early for the parades but also to get a seat in the grandstands for best viewing, or stand near to the big video screens to see the day’s action unfold. It’s not all about the horse race, so make sure you stay for the evening and enjoy the best food with representatives from each of Italy’s regions.
There is a wide selection of villas, holiday homes, houses and apartments available, along with plenty of other private rentals near the town of Buti. If you are looking to stay within Pisa itself, it is easy to get to the Palio di Buti via public transport or by car. Check our accommodation in Pisa.
Visit the various churches and landmarks in Buti itself, but in Pisa it goes without saying that the leaning tower of Pisa is a must. Walk around the area close to Piazza dei Miracoli, the Duomo Pisa next to the tower and keep an eye out for the famous Keith Haring mural.
For more information about the Palio di Buti, including: the background, folklore and history of the race, details about the districts competing, course, eating at the race, stats and trivia, useful information and more visit the official site.
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