The Fair: The donkey race


The history of the donkey race is as long as multi-faceted

In 1932 the modern palio was born as a popular event of entertainment and fun, and as a race course was chosen San Giovanni Square, also known as "Piassa di Brichèt and Cochèt" (trad Square of peaks and silkworms). The city was originally divided into 5 boroughs: San Giovanni Postiglioni or Stazione, Sagrinte nen (trad. Non disperarti), Bonomo (trad. Buonuomo), San Lorenzo e Catena. Each borough had a borgomastro representing all the bourgeoisie and, all together, participated in the preparation of the event. This event had no solid historical roots but was born with the aim of amusing, to emulate in a goliardical way the Palio of the historic rival city of Alba: the city of Asti. For this purpose, the first Palio was made: a drape with a donkey's head painted and the year 1932. The winner of the race held the drape, called Palio, until the following year when, on the eve of the next event, had to return it so that it could be assigned to the new winner. The event was still very far from how we know it today.

In 1951, Osvaldo Cagnasso reestablished the Palio, interrupted by the horrors of World War II, under the name of "Giostra delle Cento Torri" (trad Joust of the hundreds towers, referring to the numerous towers that touched in the medieval age the sky in the town of Alba, also called Città delle Cento Torri, trad City of the hundreds towers). The city was again divided into four districts: San Lorenzo, San Giovanni, San Damiano and Moretta, but also the municipalities of Canale, Guarene, Neviglie, Priocca, Barbaresco and Vezza could take part in the event. It was still a little event.

In 1967, during a meeting of the Fair Committee, the idea was to restore the Donkey Race during the Truffle Fair, adding a great historical re-enactment in costumes of the medieval commune: "La Giostra delle Cento Torri". The enthusiasm of the promoters infected the city and wherever there was a bar was born a village and together its committee: at the Calissano, the historic bar of the center, Borgo San Lorenzo was born, at Rossetti’s one the Borgo dei Sagrin , at the Bar Vecchio Elefante (no longer existing) the Borgo dei Brichèt, at the Bar Saionara (no longer existing) the Borgo delle Rane, at the Bar Principe the Borgo di Santa Barbara, at the Bar Piave (no longer existing) the Borgo del Fumo, at the Croce Bianca (currently Hotel Medea) Borgo della Bijin (from the hamlet Piana Biglini) and at the Bar del Rondò the Borgo dei Passatempi. Other boroughs were born in private homes such as the Borgo dei Patin e del Tesor, Borgo della Moretta, Borgo del Gallo, or San Frontiniano, and the Borgo Piassa d'Arme. Twelve boroughs took part in the Joust, marking the most important event of the Truffle Fair period. The field was set up in Piazza Duomo and Piazza Rossetti with date chosen in the first October, inaugural day of the Truffle Fair. The prizes settled were the Palio to the winner, a pair of golden spurs to the second, a purebred rooster to the third, an oak crown to the fourth, a salad to the fifth, and an anchovy to the sixth.

Over the years, as usual, the event has changed, losing boroughs and seeing others born, the place has changed (Piazza Cagnasso before, then Piazza A. Sarti and now back again in Piazza Cagnasso) as well as the number of prizes (in the order of place the Palio, a typical local tomato and a sardine) but the spirit has always remained the same and the desire to party parties does not seem to fall year by year.


In addition to the donkey race on the day of the Palio, the nine boroughs present a scene often of a truly historic event or stories halfway between myth and legend that affected the town of Alba. That's how before all the races all the nine boroughs parade in medieval clothes along the streets of the city, from their headquarter to the square where the race is held. The staging of these events is evaluated by a panel of judges who, at the end of the various performances, will rank and declare the winner. So the day of the Palio sees not only the donkeys (and their jockeys), but mostly all the hundreds of people behind each borough who play their part, creating wagons and stage objects, costumes, tailors, directors, historians, makeup makers... All those who work together for a single purpose: to let the viewers live a day immersed in the Middle Ages!

Our victories

Over the years, since the modern Palio was established, our borough collected the following victories:

  • 1969 · Designed by (Palio che veniva consegnato al vincitore e restituito alla vigiglia della fiera dell\'anno successivo)
  • 1988 · Designed by Bruno Martino in Carrù (CN)
  • 1993 · Designed by Marco Gastini in Torino
  • 1994 · Designed by Guido Botta in Alessandria
  • 1995 · Designed by Giuseppe Grosso in Torino
  • 1997 · Designed by Enzo Bellini in Santa Sofia di Forlì (FC)
  • 1999 · Designed by Giovanni Pascoli in Savona
  • 2005 · Designed by Bruno Daniele in Alba
  • 2016 · Designed by Enrico Crippa (chef) e Bob Noto (photographer) in Alba