Jean Cocteau

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Pallapugno in Apricale.

Translated from german by Martin Eimer, Original by Alessandro Giacobbe

Pallapugno is a traditional game with roots in antiquity. It is a team competition that was originally a pastime in ancient Rome. Since medieval times, it has changed from a game that was played after work to a professional team sport. The ball was made of leather and was very heavy. Players protected the hand with a wooden bracelet. The competition was staged along city walls, castle walls and other appropriate places. The most famous venues in Macerata and Cascine di Firenze are still being used today. The game was popular throughout Italy. Bets were placed, and professional players earned more than footballers. 

Nowadays, the ball is made of rubber and much lighter. Players protect their hand with bandages (which are never washed) and pieces of leather. The game is now most popular in rural areas. People play the game on festive days and after mass. Local variations have been developed, while “english” games such as football are primarily played in larger towns and cities.

Pallapugno is played primarily in the most traditionally-minded areas of Liguria and Piemont. There are official competitions in four categories, and also youth tournaments. The game played after work has now developed into a serious sport that is played by professionals and semi-professionals. Tournaments are held for different variants of the game. In Apricale, Pallapugno is a fixture during the summer months, and attracts famous champions who want to play here. The Piazza isn’t big enough? Well, then let’s just play on two levels, between the municipal house and the street below the castle. It is difficult to comprehend the rules of the game. Walls, stairs, vaults are all traps for the ball which races between the stones like a mad cat. Those who do not know the game do not understand a lot, but can still see in the spectators’ faces their passion and knowledge, and also the cat-like skill of the players. Movements worthy of being carved in marble, according to Goethe who watched this sport during his long visits to italy

Top right Fortunato Buscaglia from Apricale with friends