What does the word Palio mean? And who are the artists who design the Palio banner?

Above: Artist Alessandro Grazi’s “drappellone” for the July 2, 2007 Palio. Image via Pabel of Florence’s Flickr (Creative Commons).

The winning contrada (ward or neighborhood) of each Palio, Siena’s famous horse race, takes home the highly coveted drappellone, a banner like the one in the photo above.

The word drappellone comes from the Italian drappello which means military banner or squad or platoon (depending on the context).

Each year the drappellone is designed by a famous artist.

Most scholars believe that palio, the name of the race, comes from the Latin pallium, which means covering or cover (and by extension, cloak, mantle, or toga). It’s probable that the name palio itself referred at one point to the banner (although no one knows for certain).

This year, Emilio Giannelli, one of Italy’s most celebrated political cartoonists and family friend of the Cinelli Colombini, will be designing the July 2 drappellone.

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