Must have been the coffee!

Posted July 4th, 2006 by Sylvia S Tognetti and filed in Living in Post-Normal Times, Trip reports, Tuscanophilia

I almost fell asleep watching the Italy/Germany soccer game, but, as the game went into overtime, determined not to see the game end with penalty kicks, accepted a cup of coffee and sat up straight, just in time to see Italy make two goals in the last two minutes of the second period of overtime. Now that I’m fired back up, here are a few pictures from another game, “Il Gioco del Ponte” – i.e., The Bridge Game that is played every year in Pisa, by teams from opposite sides of the Arno river – the side on which the sun comes up – the Mezzo Giorno, and the side on which it sets – the Tramontana (the side I was rooting for because it is where most of my relatives live and I visit, as often as possible. It all starts with a medieval parade that makes the US marines look docile but its all drama. Following which, a challenge is sent from one side to the other, following which, the biggest men from either side of town battle for the main bridge, by pushing on a large cart until the flag is knocked over on one side of the bridge or the other. The Pisan and the neighborhood flags wasn’t the only ones flying – below the bridge was a boat flying the Red Cross flag, ready to rescue anyone falling from it. It has happened…. but everything remained rather civil this time. Tramontana won again, as they have since 1998. But what makes it even more worthwhile is that the entire downtown area is closed to traffic and, after the game is over, there are a lot of people walking around in medieval dress, as if they dressed like that every day. Also, sitting on the wall along the Arno river at sunset, one could also feel a maritime breeze coming in from the Mediterranean.
Earlier in June is another festival that I missed when, in addition to closing the streets to traffic, all electric lighting is turned off. The river and the entire downtown of Pisa are lit up entirely with candle lanterns – this is done for the Night of San Ranieri, the patron saint of Pisa, known elsewhere in the world as the Night of the Shooting Stars, the English title of a Taviani brothers film that tells the story of an incident that took place on that day in 1945. I also missed the boat races among the “4 Maritime Republics” – Pisa, Genova, Venice and Amalfi – which were hosted here this year. Pisa won that too. Before I leave, maybe I will get a chance to see the boats that were used….
This is Sylvia Tognetti,aka, The Ronin Geographer, reporting from the Tramontana, in the Marine Republic of Pisa…
Note: I have a painfully slow connection – so there is a lag between writing and posting.

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