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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.

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Comments

Bonnie Maffei Sept. 30, 2009 @ 7:34 a.m.

Esther, I just submitted a photo of a clay relief sculpture of the Palio. I hope they publish it. It's by the Italian artist, Marco Zeno, from his studio in Grossetto, Italy.

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Esther Rubio-Sheffrey Sept. 30, 2009 @ 10:05 a.m.

Bonnie I just saw your picture. That's really cool. I was part of the crowd standing in the piazza

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Bonnie Maffei Sept. 30, 2009 @ 5:05 p.m.

How very cool! I was there years ago, but I didn't see the race. I did see a saddlery shop called "Maffei", though. They could be my distant relatives. I believe our family crest has a deer on it...hunters, perhaps, once upon a time... Yes, I see they posted the photo of the Palio. Isn't Marco's relief sculpture amazing! He's so talented! Bonnie

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