Shoulder to shoulder, hour after hour, you stand amongst thousands, waiting. Weeklong celebrations are at their medieval historic peak.
The horses approach the starting line: a deafening roar from the crowd. The honor belongs to ten riders representing one of the seventeen Contrade, or city wards. Riding bareback, the first to complete three laps around a sanded-down, shell-shaped Piazza will ride in exalting glory.
The turns are sharp and the frenzied crowd is all but spilling onto the track. A brief silence, then BOOM! The mass erupts.
The first turn claims one rider; several trample him and in the collision, two more fall. The horses continue; one rider lies motionless. The paramedics scurry to his aid seconds before the remaining riders approach the bend once more.
In less than three minutes, only a handful will cross the line. No drinking, no gambling, no purse money; nothing but tradition and first place matter. It is fantastic.