The Fable of the Ruzzola

February 10, 2010 / Local Interest
Pontelandolfo, Campania

The tiny town of Pontelandolfo is notable for an unusual tournament known as the Ruzzola del Formaggio (here and here) that takes place during Carnevale. Ruzzolare means to tumble, and what is tumbled here are large forms of cheese!

A long time ago in the Middle Ages, the wealthy Baron of Pontelandolfo had a passion for gambling and would find any pretext for a good game as long as it was loaded with substantial stakes.

On the last Sunday of Carnevale he was having a late-night card game with his farmhand Pasquale: it was a tense competition with victory often changing sides. Dawn saw Pasquale the victor, who won extensive pastures and two farms.

Taking no notice of the change of ownership, the Baron allowed his cows to continue grazing on what had become Pasquale’s land. Pasquale protested to the Baron saying, “If I’m feeding your cows, I should be entitled to a share of the cheese from their milk!”

fableruzzola2“You wish!” the Baron retorted, “They are grazing on grass that was grown before you won the land, therefore it’s still my grass.”

The townsfolk of Pontelandolfo could now look forward to a good, heated battle between the two factions. The farmer, furious but clever and not wanting to foment turmoil, challenged his opponent by saying, “What began as a game should be resolved with one: I shall wait for you tomorrow in the square!”

The following morning, surrounded by a shouting crowd, the two men started what was to be a decisive cheese-tumbling tournament. According to the legend the game never ended and it is said that their ghosts appear in the nights of Carnevale, still playing!

fableruzzola3

Barbara Goldfield

by Barbara Goldfield

Owner of “Savour The Sannio”, www.savourthesannio.com, a travel consultancy for central and southern Italy.

6 Responses to “The Fable of the Ruzzola”

  1. Brava Barbara – what an interesting AND exciting event to attend. Great story also – although just a little “cheesy”.

    Reply
  2. I remembered the post from last year, and I believe I left a comment about how there is another town where a similar game is played. Panicale celebrates its cheese tumbling race on Pasquetta, the Monday after Easter. You can read my post on it here http://agliooliopeperoncino.blogspot.com/2009/04/pasquetta-or-power-of-pic-nic.html

    I loved the history behind this bizarre tradition, brava Barbara. I have to absolutely get myself over to your neck of the woods for a relaxing time chez vous… I’ve been thinking about it for a while.

    Ciao
    Eleonora

    Reply
  3. Thanks, Barbara, for a delightful description of a unique celebration. Thanks also to Lola for sharing her blob on another town’s celebration with peccorino.
    All of you/us writers about Italy who cross over publishers’ book category listings should get together and form a publishing company. Anyone writing about Italy can’t be confined to categories of Travel, Art, Biography, Cuisine, Inspiration, History, etc. My own published book, La Bella Vita–Daily Inspiration from italy by Helen Ruchti is once again needs a publisher. (Because of the economy, my publisher is going out of business!)

    Barnes & Noble shelves my book in the travel section, but it is so much more than that. We writers need a recognizable name, an agent, secretary, and lots of money to send us on a nation-wide book signing adventure to 50 cities where we have 100 friends who will bring friends to the book signing. Wouldn’t that be great?
    Tanti auguri – coraggio – and keep on sharing your Italian adventures.

    Reply
  4. Evanne Brandon Diner

    Barbara: Great note, wonderful that your town is continuing this ancient tradition. (see my note last year)http://www.italiannotebook.com/?s=ruzzolone&x=0&y=0
    perhaps we should get our towns together and compete!

    Reply

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