The Palio dei Micci (donkey race) was first held in 1956 through the initiative of a citizens committee and soon became the most important historical-folklore event in the Province of Lucca. Eight city-districts participate. In the beginning it was held in March during the St. Joseph festivities; nowadays it takes place on the first Sunday in May. By nature it plays an authoritative part in the historical traditions of Tuscany. More than two thousand costumed figures take to the city streets on Palioday dressed in splendid costumes as princes and queens, warriors and chancellors knights, scholars, jesters and peasants, to animate the most beautiful spring festivity, a fairy-tale day.
Such massive participation, greater than in any other event in Italy, not only confirms the Versilieses' spirituality, their insatiable need to vent their imaginations, but also offers the spectators striking impressive theatrical aspects.
The elegance of the costumes, the picturesque ancient ceremony, the allure of colours, banners, youthfulness and music constitute an absolutely unique, inimitable tableau. The rivalry among the districts comes to its culmination in the Palio: the donkey race. The district factions, who have Tuscan blood in their veins and therefore love competition, participate in this moment with intensity and emotion that infects even the most disenchanted spectators.