My Travels: The 388th Gare del Solco – Part 2 of 3

The Contraposta with village lights twinkling in the distance.

The Contraposta with village lights twinkling in the distance.

Before they leave the piazza in the afternoon the village and “squadra” gather in front of the Oratorio, the only remaining church for a village with three significant medieval churches, including Our Lady of the Snow.  The 2009 earthquake had damaged all these beautiful churches. The “oratorio” is a modern hall converted to the village church for now until the main church is repaired. In the courtyard in front the village choir sang traditional songs, then the priest, Don Vincenzo, blessed the teams. Finally a young boy was called up to draw the order for the six teams starting from Rovere. Apparently the teams on either end are at an advantage.

 

 

The lonely code of manning the contraposta in the cold and dark.

The lonely code of manning the contraposta in the cold and dark.

The teams make their way after the draw and have to wait in the fields in the dark for the light at the bell tower to be positioned.  I went into the hills at 9 p.m.  The one team had started and finished by 11 p.m. I am still not sure what the rush was but the leader is renowned for his love of alcohol and probably ran short, hence the rush. The team I followed, closest to Rocca di Cambio, took it easier. We all had some wine and a panino then they started to place the “contraposta”. As I walked in the dark with camera and tripod I realized there were the remains of the previous year’s “gare”, hard scars in slightly different alignment as the position of the main light changed. Also the line seemed to cut along the edge of some serious bush and trees. Later in the night I heard chainsaws and axes removing obstacles.

A line of lanterns leading a straight line to the village.

A line of lanterns leading a straight line to the village.

The first section was a few hundred meters long. The second section was a bit under a kilometer, and the last section about the same as the first, and close to the village. By the second section the team was well oiled and the laying of the light line of lanterns was much quicker and more accurate. As the tractor passed and the plough blade etched the hard earth, steam rose from the furrow. As the tractor passed the back end of the team refined the furrow for any minor deflections with hoes and spades by torchlight.

Finishing the furrow: steam rising from the cut soil.

Finishing the furrow: steam rising from the cut soil.

 

Finishing the furrow with hoes.

Finishing the furrow with hoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last team finished the last stretch at 5 a.m. the next day. One of the members, a cousin, took me to the bell tower before noon the next day. We were alone initially and I could only laugh at how skew the last section was for each tired and oiled group by the end of the evening.  My cousin did offer the excuse of a big tree stump that blocked them halfway through the last section. The deviation was obvious! As we stood on the hill and took photos the villagers, spectators and members of the “squadra” arrived to inspect the furrows. Some even had binoculars and all offered an opinion of who the winner was.  It was obvious that the squadra second from Rocca di Cambio was the best, but I was warned that sometimes “politics” changed the result of the judges.

Rovere in the distance: rolling down the foot slopes of Sirente.

Rovere in the distance: rolling down the foot slopes of Sirente.

2 thoughts on “My Travels: The 388th Gare del Solco – Part 2 of 3

  1. Dear Basil Art Inc,
    You have brought back many splendid memories of my childhood from Rocca di Mezzo. My name is Carol Brandani (now Mancini) and I must say, your photos capture the essence of what it’s really like. It is a great tradition that many young kids look forward to because they get to stay up “all night” and help make this solco as straight as possible. Not an easy task.
    Grazie and I look forward to many more photos from you.

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