Every city has its special day on which the various neighbourhoods battle it out to be the best in town: Siena has the Palio, Florence has Calcio Storico and Pisa has… well Pisans are especially competitive so they have two: Regatta of San Ranieri (June 17) and Gioco del Ponte (last weekend in June).
The Gioco del Ponte 2010 will be next Saturday (June 26). Literally “the game of the bridge”, it is a real “battle” on the bridge which divides the center in two halves: Ponte di Mezzo. There are two equally important parts to this event: the parade in period costume and the “battle” itself.
The historical pageant is really, really impressive. It is supposed to reproduce a military parade so an “army” of over 300 people in historical costumes parades through the center. It’s well worth a daytrip to Pisa if you are in the area. This year the parade will start later than usual at 7:30 pm.
The game starts at 9pm. 12 teams representing each of quartieri (neighbourhoods) of the city are joined in two larger teams: Tramontana, made up of the quartieri on the north side of the river Arno (Santa Maria, San Francesco, San Michele, Mattaccini, Claci and Satiri) and Mezzogiorno (Sant’Antonio, San Martino, San Marco, Leoni, Dragoni, Delfini) from the southern side of the city. Before the actual “battle”, the different teams parade on their own side of the river. A third parade is that of the 81 judges. After this display, the “battle” begins and the teams made up of really large men challenge each other by trying to push a very heavy cart onto each other’s side of the bridge using only the backs of their necks. It’s quite impressive.
This year, there will also be two large TV screens (one in Piazza della Berlina and one in front of Palazzo Blu) to allow more people to see what is going on on the bridge without the usual crowds on the Lungarno. A hot air baloon above Ponte di Mezzo will light up the river in the area where the game takes place with the colours of the team who is winning.
The cart was installed on Ponte di Mezzo yesterday. Everybody was working hard to have everything ready for tomorrow, because this year, Pisa has decided to go back to the old traditions and have a “veglia” as well. The city will be awaiting her big day with a party on the river banks at Scalo dei Renaioli, Lungarno Galilei, on the day before the event (that’s what “veglia” means in Italian),
Friday June 25. Slow Food and Argini e Margini offer a selection of local products of the Pisa province and the entrance fee is 17 euros.
Exciting novelties, although I am not so sure whether having the game so late in the evening is a good idea or if some of the people who would have come from outside the city by public transportation will come anyway this year. We will see! In the meanwhile… Forza Mezzogiorno!!!!