From August 19th to 25th, Gambassi Terme’s Palio delle Contrade will celebrate wine and the town agricultural tradition.
The Palio delle Contrade of Gambassi Terme is young: a teenager among the many other long-established summer folk events. Moreover, despite the name alludes to that all-Tuscan passion for the Middle Ages, the Gambassi’s palio was born at the beginning of the third millennium, pulling itself out of the historical controversy around what should be considered the oldest palio in Italy. Who designed it, sixteen years ago, had an idea in mind: to give Gambassi the chance to strenghten its community’s social bonds, to be together by playing games, to get to know each other, no matter your age. Dario Ciappi has been a contrada captain for over ten years and he does not hesitate to describe the palio as an inter-generational glue: you come here in the square – he says – and the pensioner talks to the teenager, the twenty-year-old discusses with those who are twice his age. Nothing more than an everyday scene in a small town, one could say but, sure, but the palio has been a great exercise of cohabitation and mediation.
4 Contrade: Membrino, Belvedere, i’Porcello e la Pieve
Designing a palio out of scratch is not a trivial matter. Serena Negrini is a witness of its developments since the first edition and she has contributed to writing the rules. Let’s start, for example, from the contrade: they do not correspond to old settlements or districts: Membrino, Belvedere, i’Porcello and la Pieve were born on paper, by drawing a cross on the map of the town. Who participates? Only residents of Gambassi, male and female. For those who decide to change contrada, there is no way back … The games? … there are no horses, no velvet costumes, no trials by combat. In Gambassi, the competitions speak of its rural traditions: wood splitting, log sawing or pressing grapes are among the contests. Beside that, the four quarters of the town challenge each other to a breath-taking race that involve running while rolling a barrel uphill. Not to mention the tricky gara della bigoncia, a race where runners literally wear a wooden bin.
Any idea of what a bigoncia is?
It is a wooden bin, made of staves held together by iron rings; with a slightly conical shape, it was used to collect the grapes during the harvest. It is one of the many ‘tools and skills’ of the winemakers and farmers who have always cultivated the vine around here. In the past, a trade show used to display their products; today the Palio delle Contrade salutes the ancient culture of wine of Gambassi Terme: the Ragazzi del Palio – the Palio dudes – have inherited this strong agricultural history and they perform it on stage, in the street, in the arena, every year, at the end of August.
Over and above the races, the not to be missed are the parade floats … inventiveness and artistry at stake!
While you’re reading, the four teams are training and those who do not participate into the races, help building the parade floats, sewing clothes and setting up the Sunday show. In the past years the parade have become more and more sophisticated: imagine an ephemeral procession that brings together carnival traditions, Buontalenti-like scenographies, theater, dance, musicals and pop culture. The theme around which the floats are designed is always the wine; to judge their originality and beauty there is a very secret jury. This year Gambassi is waiting for quite knowledgeable jurors (!!!), a group of builders of the floats of the Viareggio Carnival …
Here it is the program
Friday August 23
Gara dello Spaccalegna (wood splitting)
Gioco del segone (log sawing)
Saturday August 24
Blessing Cerimony of the palio (the winning contrada is awarded a painted drape called palio…)
Corsa delle Botti (uphill running race with barrels)
Gara delle bigonce (running race with wooden bin)
Sunday August 25
Better be there early in the afternoon, around 3.00 PM
Parade Floats’ Competition
Gioco del pigio dell’uva (grapes pressing)
We recommend you follow I Ragazzi del Palio on Facebook to keep posted about the races’ time table and about the Notti del Palio, the program of late night shows and concerts running throughout the Palio. Do not miss the closing event with ZASTAVA ORKESTAR. If you get hungry, the Osteria Pinchiorba, the Gatto e la Volpe Restaurant, the Pontormo Caffè and the other bars in Piazza Roma will be open until late. Do not forget to visit the Pieve di Santa Maria a Chianni: it will be open from 4.00 to 7.00 PM during the week end!