"Tocatì, a shared programme for the safeguarding of traditional games and sports"

Associazione Giochi Antichi

Since 2003 Associazione Giochi Antichi (AGA – Verona, Italy) is involved in the safeguarding of Traditional Sports and Games at the National, European and international level.
During these difficult times of restrictions due to COVID19, the association has completely revisited the organization of one of the most important events of its program of activities: the Tocatì festival. The 2020 edition of the Festival, given the world health situation, has given up hosting in Verona the usual international Guest of Honor and has seen Tocatì turn into a widespread festival, involving the whole Italian peninsula with the participation of 13 Italian villages with their Traditional Sports and Games.
From September the 18th to the 20th 2020 the audience of Tocatì has experienced the first streaming edition of the festival, with live broadcasts that have followed us on a discovery journey of 13 small-sized villages but with a rich living heritage: many of them in contexts already recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites or as “Borghi più belli d’Italia”/”Most Beautiful Villages of Italy”.
Thanks to the broadcasts from these villages we have been able to explore more closely the territories and cultural contexts of the “Traditional Ludic Communities” of the Tocatì network, which usually are hosted in historical centre of Verona. The impossibility of a face-to-face meeting, made AGA and the network looking for a way to realize the event, keeping the dialogue with the communities of players in such a difficult period, which hinders feeling part of a collectiveness. The communities were invited to tell themselves in the first person playing live from their home territories.
If at the beginning the pandemic seemed to be an obstacle, it turned out being an opportunity to learn more about the communities, since we have been able to build a new vision of the context of the territories, having a look at the craft knowledge and traditions, which are passed on to new generations through the game. It was an emotional journey, which made us learn more intimately the context and origins of those practices with such a long history… now you can experience it again with us:
We started from the North of Italy: with the Traditional sport “Tsan”, in the Valle d’Aosta region. This is a Game, which can distantly remind the Baseball, practiced on the steep fields between Montjovet and Aosta, in Val d’Ayas and in Valtournenche.
We went down in Piemonte region, in Langhe hills, to see an all-female Game. We were in Farigliano, on the border with the UNESCO site “Wine-growing landscape of Piedmont: Langhe – Roero – Monferrato” to meet the Game of the skittles of Farigliano, the “Bijè”: a Traditional Game, whose aim is throwing a large wooden bowl in order to knock down nine bije (large pins) about a meter high. The shape of the game tools refers to fertility.
In Lombardia region, in Cremona province, with the Game of “Sburla la Roda” we saw a large straw bale rolling, pushed by players with an average age of 25. Through this Game the Association Oltrefossa makes an ancient practice from the 20th Century revive: the millers replaced the large millstones of the water mills by rolling them along the riverbanks until they were taken downstream to be transformed into objects with other functions.
We dived in Adriatic Sea, in Burano, Venice, in order to watch a competition organized by the Coordination of Remiere: with traditional standing rowing boats have been challenged in speed and made us discover a traditional Game and Sport that recently has rediscovered the pleasure of rowing and in many cases also sailing.
Some Pilote launches, a Game which remind the Valencian Pelota, made us meet a boys and girls’ playing community from 14 years old, engrossed in launching and relaunching a ball made of leather and hemp fiber. We were in Gemona in Friuli region, in Udine province.
On the other hand westward, we met another female playing community: the community of the Traditional Game “Gioco delle Noci” (Nuts’ game), in Monterosso al Mare, in Liguria region, in the context of one of the UNESCO sites of National Park of Cinque Terre. Here we admired Monterosso players’ skill in launching competitors’ nuts to grab a during that time precious, and today tasty, booty.
When we arrive in Pienza, at Val d’Orcia Park, we talk again about food, about cheese, cacio, to be exact. Here we discovered the “Cacio al Fuso” Game, which is derived from ancient custom of shepherd to beat on the cheese to test its seasoning.
In the Center of Italy we got astonished in front of the balance of the Trampolieri community from Schieti and “Corsa con la Cannata” from Arpino. They are two different practices, both with ancient origins. On the one hand, in Schieti walking on stilts reminds to the ancient need to go through marshy areas; on the other hand, in Arpino, a village at the foot of the central Apennines, the ciociare women’ need to bring water in the village is transformed in a ludic practice: they run with a large terracotta amphora filled with water on the head, challenging each other in real competitions.
Southward, in Reggio Calabria province, we met a large group of players of all ages, engrossed in launching wooden skittles – “Brigghja” – to grab the coins placed at an appropriate distance, above a pin to be knocked down.
The journey ended on the Italian islands. In Sicily thanks to a rolling cheese, Maiorchino, we discovered the downhill paths of Novara di Sicilia, in the province of Messina, where the inhabitants challenge each other in throwing the cheese wheel as far as possible. In Sardinia, the last stop of our journey finds in Ollolai, in Nuoro province, where we had the possibility to admire a Sardinian traditional fight technique, which in the past was considered an expression of virility: “S’Istrumpa”.
Through a variety of ritual and ludic practices we tell the Italian Peninsula, which was rediscovered by a ludic spirit and curious look in a widespread Tocatì. The 2020 edition of the Festival made us discover a new and different way for networking for the safeguarding of living cultural heritage of our community of communities.

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