For two days Giovanni Barontini was tormented by a terrific thirst and violent hiccups. His pale face dripping in cold sweat and ever more visits to the toilet accompanied by shooting pains in his belly that stopped him from going to work. Giovanni was a robust man and he hadn’t taken a day off for years. The doctor immediately saw the irregular pulse and breathing, the air in the room was fetid, the examination and the symptoms left no cause for doubt. The alarm had already been raised on Elba and Giglio, and also in Livorno: the Indico Morbo was among them. On his death certificate "coleroso" (of cholera) is written next to Giovanni’s name. The deceased came quickly: 37 in two weeks. The parish priest, distraught by the fate that had befallen the community, wanted to spread hope among his faithful. Don Vincenzo Tonelli, known as the “Arcipretone”, a big man in terms of size and charisma, organized a solemn procession along the village streets, in which the “Dead Christ” was parade, besecching the end of the unexpected epidemic. Tradition has it that a violent storm hit the village and, although the deaths continued until 27 September, they declined so much that it was deemed a miracle. Therefore, the following year, on 19 August 1856, the anniversary of the procession was celebrated with another parade, but this time it was a lavish affair, followed by a big party during which two marble slabs were unearthed, still visible today at the sides of the altar of the church of San Martino. The “festa del Diciannove” (Festival of the 19) was born.
The festival soon took on a profane, folkloristic and commemorative dimension. Literary disputes and contests were organized, such as the spear throwing and epic horse races of the “bestiai del Casone”, the cowboys from the farm of the same name at the foot of the village. (Hence the name “Le Carriere”.) The challenges among the townsfolk began in the Sixties thanks to the local tourism board, introducing organic rules and a structure that has pretty much remained unchanged. In memory of the ancient medieval neighbourhoods into which the village was divided, the Rocca, Centro and San Donato became the protagonists of the event – now mindful of dusting down its medieval and renaissance past – and were called upon to fight for a trophy (a majolica dish) awarded for each contest: there is only one winner in the scoring system for the various competitions. The race is everyone’s favourite, but now it’s on foot and not on horseback, wearing period costumes in the colours of the neighbourhood, preceded by the historic parade and an archery competition. At night the neighbourhoods, decorated on the days leading up to the main, become magical settings for popular theatre performances.