The Palio della Tonna is the most traditional and descriptive event of Civita di Bagnoregio, an ancient village with a particular charm.
Every year on the occasion of the Celebrations of the Madonna Liberatrice (the first Sunday of June) and of the SS. Crucifix (third Sunday of September), the race of donkeys with jockeys is held.
La Tonna is certainly one of the most awaited events of Tuscia, an event that recalls ancient traditions and a profound link between man and nature. In the past, in fact, the donkey was the only means of transport to reach the town.
According to the rules of the Palio della Tonna the jockeys must make three rounds of Piazza San Donato (the beating heart of the “City that Dies”) in a circle, hence the name of the round square, or “tonna” in the local dialect, and then face each other in a series of races that will select the best to compete in the final.
Between incitements and laughter, the stubborn little donkeys play their part, huddling and backing away, often putting jockeys in trouble who are trying to encourage their stubborn “comrades” to do their best to finish the race, in an attempt to be victorious.
The winner is awarded the Palio, the banner created by a local artist and depicting the patron saint of the event.
The occasion of the festival is certainly also an opportunity to visit one of the most charming villages of Lazio, surrounded by huge natural walls generated by the slow and inexorable wear by atmospheric agents that give life to a show of great uniqueness, known as “bridges”, and clearly visible looking out from the eastern cliff.
The event gives Civita di Bagnoregio that touch of liveliness in its natural daily quiet. For the occasion, there is also a feast in the square with music and food and wine stands that already brighten the day for visitors in the morning. All this in a cheerful, healthy competition, in a setting of a crowd that unites the local residents with tourists and those who return to the town for the event.
Between one event and the next it is strongly recommended to move away from the “chaos” of the events to discover and contemplate the silences and the still face of the village, with its heritage of harsh and surprising beauty. Today Civita di Bagnoregio is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.