Monte San Savino is the land of the pallone col bracciale (ball with a guard) champions; a sport that few people know elsewhere but that nobody has forgotten here. In this little town in Arezzo, the game also called palla grossa (big ball), is still practiced. It's a historic sport that has been played since the 16th century. Tournaments were held between Monte San Savino, Arezzo, Faenza and Poggibonsi.
The tradition is still alive today. It is the subject on
everyone’s lips when matches are being held with the results even being published
in the local newspapers. Many books have been written about pallone col bracciali, with particular
attention paid by the people of Monte San Savino. First of all, for those who
have never seen it, the game vaguelyresembles tennis. The players throw
the large leather ball by hitting it with a large guard which has wooden slats
tucked around their wrist. It is a sport that requires a lot of strength given
that the oak wood guard weighs a few pounds and the handstitched leather ball
weighs about 300-400 grams. The
equipment is made by artisans who hand down the secrets through the
Unfortunately, the sferisterio (arena) in Monte San
Savino which was built in 1790 specifically for pallone col bracciale tournaments no longer exists. It was destroyed in the 20th century after having endured many
challenges. The collapse was caused by the structure of the building, ending
the venue’s career as home to the very popular sport which is so loved by locals. The games could occasionally become a
little too spirited. Previously, there had been no suitable space to hold the
games so they were held in the main
square. When they became too raucous, the games provoked protests from
clergy due to the ‘overly liberal’ way of speaking of the players, and the
daily complaints of shopkeepers who were forced to close their shops on match
days due to risk of damage caused by the heavy leather ball. The difficulties
were ended when the arena was finally built in 1790 along the castle walls,
outside the San Giovanni gate.
Monte San Savino was the birthplace of many great champions of pallone col bracciale. The most well-known names include Agostino Frullani, Augusto Frullani and Dante Ulivi, who are remembered by Edmondo De Amicis in his book ‘The blues and the reds’. The golden period lasted until the first decades of the 20th century. Today, the sport lives on in honour of the tradition and maintains its avid supporters. The games still take place along the historic city walls.