Reading comprehension 4

The Palio

Every July and August, in the Italian town of Sienna, a world-famous horserace takes place called the Palio. It is no ordinary race as the jockeys ride the horses without saddles, but the really unusual thing is that the race takes place in the town centre! There are no rules – they race around the main plaza three times and the whole thing only lasts about two minutes. This ancient tradition started in the eleventh century.

Seventeen riders take part, and each one represents a different contrade, or neighbourhood. Interestingly, the loser of the race is the horse that comes second, not the one that comes last. People come from all over the world to watch the Palio, and there is a big procession before the race and a big party after it finishes.
However, not everybody is happy about the race. Some people think that it is very cruel. Since 1970 more than fifty horses have died, and many people have had to go to hospital with injuries – both jockeys and members of the public. This year animal activists were angrier than usual, because the producers of the new James Bond film are going to use some scenes from the Palio. The activists say that it glamorises the race.

But because it’s such an old tradition, and because it brings so much money into the town, the Palio will probably continue for many years to come.

GLOSSARY: jockey – jockey/jinete, saddle – silla de montar, contrade – barrio, century – siglo

1. Read the text and answer the questions.

a) Do many people watch the race?
b) Does everybody like the race?

2. Read the text again. Write true or false for each question.

a) There are three races every year
b) The race is the same as horse races in other countries
c) The race finishes in a short time.
d) The race is only popular in Italy.
e) The race can be dangerous.
f) James Bond is going to ride in the race.

3. Vocabulary: Find the ‘person’ in the text.

a) Another word for jockey.
b) The opposite of winner
c) The people who oppose cruelty to animals
d) The people responsible for making a film

4. Phrasal verbs: Find phrasal verbs in the text that mean:

a) happen
b) participate

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