Basilica di Santa Maria Novella

The tradition of the Palio dei Cocchi

Piazza Santa Maria Novella, in front of the Basilica of the Dominican Friars of the same name, was inaugurated at the end of the 1200s. To build it, many houses with orchards and vineyards were demolished (the nearby Via della Vigna Nuova is a reminder of the agricultural scope of the area outside the walls during this time). The square, the scene of crowded religious sermons, became the site of events and the city’s famous horse rides. The most important was called the Palio dei Cocchi, a Roman chariot-like race, commissioned by Cosimo I in 1563. The chariots raced three times around the two huge wooden pyramids that marked the highest point of the track, and the prize was a velvet cloth (the Palio). In 1600, two marble obelisks were built to replace the pyramids, supported by four bronze turtles and created by the era’s most famous sculptor, Giambologna. They still exist today, but perhaps not even the Florentines themselves know their story…

April – September  |  9:00am – 7:00pm
October – March  |  9:00am – 5:30pm

Piazza S. Maria Novella, 18  |  50123 Firenze


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