‘Gioco del Ponte’ in Pisa (Battle of the Bridge Pisa) is held on the last Saturday of June. This is after the renowned San Ranieri celebrations. This is a traditional confrontation between the Pisa’s districts on the Ponte di Mezzo. This is one of the bridges that cross the Arno river in Pisa. All of the city’s neighbourhoods are divided into two teams, either the Mezzogiorno or Tramontana, depending on their position. In this game, you need to conquer the side of the bridge that is occupied by the enemy. This is done through the position of an iron cart arranged on the bridge. Even though the battle is just one night long, preparations for it are begun all year round. Before the start of the battle some customary activities are held. The two opposing troops march along the four Lungarni (the streets along the Arno). A wonderful parade with over 700 people dressed in magnificent 16th-century Spanish costumes.
The month of June comprises many historical events in Pisa, perhaps the best ones in Tuscany. These are namely the Luminara, the Historical Regatta of San Ranieri and finally the Giòo der Ponte’ as they say in Pisa (Game of the Bridge in Pisa). This draws many tourists to the area who are keen to learn about the folklore traditions. The program is always divided by two key moments. The historical parade is at around eight at night. The battle of the bridge in Pisa on the Mezzo Bridge is at about ten o’clock in the evening. During the Battle of the Bridge the citizens will draw a cart side by side on the rails installed on the bridge. The participating teams are united by membership to the historical districts of Pisa featuring flags, colors and unique sayings.
The origins of the Italian festival
This combat is taken very seriously and participants very aggressively try to win on the surface of the bridge. The parade is an equally important component of this event as it highlights the historical significance of the battle. Seven hundred people parading along the Arno river in Pisa, create a very charming medieval historical simulation. The Pisa Battle of the Bridge has its origins dating back to the 14th century. When the city of Pisa was a Republic, there was already a game called Mazza Scudo. The people on the opposite sides of the Arno River challenged each other. The northern part was originally called the Gazza and then Tramontana, the southern part called the Gallo and then Mezzogiorno. This game is marked by its overall ferocity and the use of clubs and shields to dominate the territory. The first official edition of this italian festival dates back to 1568, when the bridge was called Ponte Vecchio. The dispute included about 60 soldiers for each of the two opposing teams. Originally the game was played in the ancient Square of Anziani (now called Piazza dei Cavalieri). In recent times Ponte di Mezzo became the official theater of the race. This festival, unlike many others like Palio di Siena, is a display of physical strength. The Pisa Bridge has been changed, stopped and closed in many ways but still continues to endure. Some of the prominent changes made are that the clubs and shields are no longer used now. They are replaced byTargone, a wooden board with the colors of the teams. The board was used until 1807 when the queen Maria Luisa suspended the game. She believed it was too violent, imitating a real battle.
However, at the onstart of the 20th century Pisa was dominated by university students. They protested to revive the Battle of the Bridge and its accompanying events. In 1935 they staged a modern version of the Game of Bridge in Pisa. In this the King Vittorio Emanuele III also participated. During the Second World War, the event was suspended and the Ponte di Mezzo was torn down during the fighting. The next game took a direct turn away from the open confrontation between players and using a mechanical cart to slide on the rails. The changes that remain to this day have included the simultaneous pushing between the two opposing teams. This happens from one direction to the other, in a really compelling and relentless tussle. The Gioco del Ponte in Pisa was relaunched in 1981 thanks to the dell’Associazione Amici del Gioco del Ponte.
Stages of the Battle
This game in Pisa involves pushing a cart along the rails of a track in the Ponte di Mezzo to reach your rivals. You need to overpower them using both strategy and strength. Before all this, a parade is set out. Over 700 people on horseback adorn 16th century Spanish style with the use of velvets, damasks, and brocades. They carry swords, daggers, axes and morioni (helmets). Trumpets and drums keep the enthusiastic atmosphere at the parade on Lungarni. Previously there used to be 6 fights among the 12 teams. A further draw was held by choosing the best fighters from the two teams. Since 2007. The Battle of the Bridge Foundation was responsible for making changes to the clash. Both the teams are in the center of the bridge. They Initiate the ‘collective thrust’ in the opposite direction steered by their Captain. When the teams are ready for the challenge, they signal to the umpire to release the brake from the truck so the competition ensues.
The clash of titans occurs as both teams put an immaculate show of power. The battle can end within seconds or even extend to about 10 long minutes. The cart arrives at the opposing party. The boundary is determined by the presence of a flag placed on both sides. When the flag falls, the enemy territory has been won and the game can end. There are stalemates and other defensive pressures involved. This is when the teams put the most force to have an edge over their opponents.