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A sport known as “Pallone col Bracciale” is an essential element of the cultural history of Treia. The most important player was Carlo Didimi who became legendary when, in 1821, the renowned poet Giacomo Leopardi dedicated to him the poem “Ode a un vincitore nel gioco del Pallone”. “Pallone col Bracciale” has very ancient roots, but it reached its apogee during the Renaissance. In this period it became the favourite sport of nobles and one of the main subjects for poets and writers.The game was played both in Northern and Central Italy in the XVIII and in the XIX centuries in special arenas called “Sferisteri”. They were flat fields, 16-18 meters wide and 90-100 meters long, with a vertical high wall on one side and a place for the audience. The arena of Treia was built by De Mattia and Graziosi and was inaugurated in 1818, when the young player Carlo Didimi played an important match. Nowadays the arena is used as a car park, but it is still employed for matches in case of the festivities. The game is technically similar to tennis with a few evident differences. The aim is that of playing the ball across the field by using a sort of racket called “Bracciale”. The Bracciale is derived from a single block of sorb wood. The inside part is hollowed at the level of the player’s wrist; on the outside, some wooden spikes are built into cylindrical holes. The average weight of the Bracciale is 2 kilos. The ball weighs, on average, 350 grams. Its surface was once made of portions of the thickest cow leather, while the inside was made of the softest cow leather. Nowadays the ball is made of modern materials even though it keeps its ancient features.
Each team consists of three players, “battitore” (striker), “spalla” (mid-player) and “terzino” (full-back). There is also an outsider known as “Mandarino” who plays an important role in the game.
The outsider has to throw the ball to the striker who must direct it to the opposite side of the field. This spectacular strike starts the game. As it happens in tennis, the score counting is in 15. Each set is usually divided into four games called “trampolini ”.
One of the main section is called “volata”: the ball is hit out of the opponents’ field. During the game players are allowed to make the ball bounce against the high vertical wall provided the ball hits the opposite side of the field.
“Disfida del Bracciale” is preceded by a traditional festival. The ten-day festivities start on the last Friday of July and end on the first Sunday of August.
Four teams of the four “rioni” compete in order to win a trophy to keep for one year.
During these days Treia livens up with many decorations . Traditional dishes are served in the local taverns which are opened for the occasion and traditional handicrafts are exhibited in different parts of the town. Before the final match there is a great parade of the citizens in traditional costumes of the first half of XIX century.
“La balaustra di lontano sembrava quella di qualsiasi terrazzo, ma da vicino era poderosa … era la cimasa di una enorme scarpata che andava giù giù fino in fondo dove c’era una cosa che se fosse stata brutta, avrebbe potuto essere l’Inferno tanto era profonda; ma era chiara luminosa, liscia come un’altra piazza dentro la cornice di un lungo muricciolo e di due scalinate: quello era il gioco del pallone … Il bracciale era un manicotto di legno duro con grossi spuntoni come un bugnato a punta di diamante, attraversato nell’interno da qualcosa a cui si afferrava la mano del giocatore.
I giocatori erano vestiti di bianco, calzoncini corti adorni di pizzi, legati al ginocchio con nastri sopra le lunghe calze bianche, scarpe basse, una giacchetta a sacco piena di falpalà e di trine come i matinée delle signore, in vita una sciarpa di seta colorata pendente da un lato con frange d’oro …
Per il gioco del pallone ci voleva un muro … a Treja c’era il muro, ma non fabbricato per il gioco, era il muro che sosteneva la più bella piazza pensile del mondo …
Da quel gioco del pallone era uscito un giocatore che se non era lui, era il diavolo; per la bravura di quel diavolo trejese, il recanatese Leopardi scrisse l’ode “A un vincitore nel pallone”. Quando giravo … sotto le logge … era il nome ad entrarmi di prepotenza negli occhi tanto era scritto grosso in una lapide: Carlo Didimi”.
Da “Giù la piazza non c’è nessuno” di Dolores Prato