La bandiera verde – what do the regulations provide when it rains

As some of you know, the rain sometimes plays an unwanted leading role during the Quatro Giorni. Since 2010, 14 trials have been canceled in 5 different palios due to rain. For example, the Palio of August 16, 2015 was only driven the day later for the same reason. For the Straordinario of September 17, 1972, not a single prova was driven because of the rain. This has never happened before or since.

Article 53 of the Palio regulations states that “if the track is unpreparable or dangerous due to rain, the mayor, after the non-binding opinion of the technical services of the municipality, is empowered to postpone the prova or cancel. The measure taken is communicated to the public by a flag that is displayed on one of the three floors of the Palazzo Pubblico. If the prova is postponed, a white flag will be displayed, in case of cancellation a green one.”

Another special feature is that delaying the battery and the tratta can also lead to the cancellation of one or more proves. This happened in July 2017. The batteries were ridden in the early afternoon and the horses were only raffled in the second part of the afternoon. As a result, that evening’s prova was canceled because there was too little time between the assegnazione and the prova. The second paragraph of Article 44 states that “in case of rain, everything may be postponed to a more convenient time the same day, or even the day after. A decision on this is taken by the mayor after consultation with the captains.”

In the recent history of the Palio, the same happened in August 1969, July 1988 and August 1999. We read about this in the first paragraph of Article 34: “the presentation of the horses, the choice and the allocation of the horses to the contrade must take place at the latest on the morning of the third day before the Palio, both in the ordinary and in the straordinario.”

The question then arises what should be done if the tratta is delayed until the next day. In the recent past this happened for the Palio of August 16, 2002. Some Sienese then demanded that the Palio be postponed to August 17 in order to respect the Quatro Giorni. Due to the heavy rainfall, the municipal workers were even forced to completely remove and rebuild the track. As a result, the tratta was postponed to August 14, as said. Article 1 was invoked as arguments against the ‘demonstrators’, which states that the Palio will be driven on July 2 and August 16. In the 1990s, the Palio was postponed 3 times to the next day. Twice because of the rain and a too dangerous track as a result, the other time because of the darkness. In the end, it is also up to the mayor to make a decision in that case. In case of rain in consultation with the captains, otherwise in agreement with the security services.