It is the most important and anticipated event in Cagli, a quiet town in the province of Pesaro Urbino in Le Marche region. The Palio Storico dell’Oca (historic Palio of the Goose) is a dip into the ancient Renaissance past deeply felt by locals and even more tourists that come to take part to this event every year since 1987 on the second Sunday of August. Beat the drums and blow the trumpets, let the game begin!
The Game of the Goose
You’ll experience a “living” Game of the Goose, during which the four districts of the town compete for the Palio, an iron statue depicting a goose, the symbol of San Geronzio, patron saint of Cagli to whom the event is dedicated. Each district stands for an area of the town and is marked by different colours; their names derive from their representative churches: Sant’Agostino (pink and black) occupies the Northern part of the historical centre, Sant’Andrea (yellow and blue) occupies the Eastern side, Sant’Angelo Maggiore (red and blue) the Southern one and San Francesco (red and green), occupying the Western area. Some weeks before the event, the streets and balconies are coloured with the standards of the districts they belong to… a picturesque show that heralds the great festival! Of equal importance, the historical parade which is composed of about 400 people and the competitors of the Palio walking through the streets of the town, wearing richly decorated costumes.
The game follows the standard version, with 54 boxes representing arts and crafts to which correspond various skill challenges: horse racing, shooting with crossbow, with bow and arrow, barrel running, running on stilts, with sacks, relay races, launch of rings to catch around the neck, trunk cutting, tug of war and much more! Every district throws a dice in turn and the respective ‘pageboy marker’ moves from box to box. To maintain its position and not return to the starting point, the team will have to pass the test illustrated challenging another district drawn by lot…the cheers of encouragement for players always makes a funny show! To make the game even more surprising, there are some special boxes, allowing for example to double or halve the scores, to miss a turn; also, from box 48 onwards, the rules are a bit altered making the contest very exciting.
If you want to live the event like a true Cagliese, enjoying all the main moments of the Palio, then I suggest you to calmly reach Cagli on Saturday morning or even at lunch, so you can try the local specialties in one of the small restaurants of the town. On the Saturday afternoon preceding the event at about 5 o’clock, the four districts gather in the central square for the ceremony of the Palio Eve, true to the historical tradition. The Palio (the iron statue depicting the goose) is returned to the authorities, the district captains are appointed, knights, crossbowmen and archers are assigned and the order of the dice roll is drawn for the next day. The ceremony ends in the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta with blessings and prayers. By that moment, the district taverns open and you can find them located in the four different areas of the old town with food stands, bars, music and all the summer dance hits. The most experienced housewives cook for weeks preparing lots of egg pasta and delicious sauces; you can not give up the opportunity to taste the best local dishes! At around 10pm, the sound of drums accompanies the night parade by the light of torches.
On Sunday you can rest till late as the opening parade actually starts at 4pm. The second week of August is usually hot, therefore I suggest you to wear light clothing, take plenty of water, bring a cap and maybe even a little bit of sun cream… you may need it once you take your seat at the arena, even if the game begins around 6pm. Until the sixteenth edition in 2002, the Palio was held in the picturesque scenery of the main square Giacomo Matteotti; since 2003 the game has been moved to the new Arena of Sant’Emidio, in the lower part of the town, allowing both greater participation of the public and the organisation of new games (such as archers and crossbowmen, the knights race) that require more space. There is an entrance ticket that you can also buy online from the official event website: http://www.giochistoricidicagli.it/palio-storico-dell-oca/arena-di-gioco/#
After the conclusion of the competition, celebrations continue in the taverns open until late in the night, with food, music and street artists entertaining the guests.
Paliotto: the Palio for children
Since 2003, on the first Sunday of August, exactly one week before the main Palio, children between 10 and 14 years old are the protagonists of the historic Paliotto of Cagli.
The development is exactly the same, with the rolling of the dice, games and challenges such as sack racing, tug of war, running with stilts and other games aimed at little ones such as the treasure chest, the fortress and the painter.
This event takes place in Piazza Giacomo Matteotti.
For dinner, an only tavern representing the four districts will be open in Piazza Niccolò IV, known by everyone as Piazza del Teatro.
To enjoy your stay in Le Marche and experience local habits and traditions of this territory, I suggest you these three villas, equipped with every comfort.
Are you ready to leave?
Villa Doriana – Cagli (PU)
Casale del Sole – Cagli (PU)
Casa Maria – Cagli (PU)