June 24, 2009 / Local Interest
Mugnano in Teverina
ruzzolone2We’re in the land of the Etruscans, so why not play their favorite game?

For thousands of years, the ruzzola has been a sport practiced by shepherds and farmers, with a smattering of nobles, clergy and intellectuals thrown in. Once a year in this village in rural Lazio, playing the game brings together young and old. The races are held on defined paths, called treppe, specially chosen with hills, curves and obstacles to make the game more lively.

The game dates back to ancient times, as paintings in the tomb of the Olimpiade in Tarquinia attest; in the game, a ruzzola, a very hard and durable round of stagionato (aged) pecorino cheese in the shape of a discus, was launched down a track.

ruzzolone3Today, the ruzzola is usually a disc of very hard wood with variable diameter according to the local regulations, usually from 13 cm for a ruzzola to a giant size called a ruzzolone, even though a round of matured cheese is still sometimes used instead of wood. The game consists of winding a string or belt around the launching ruzzola and then holding one end of the twine to make a fast rotation.

It is often a team effort: the players, divided into teams, alternate while trying to run the cheese as far as possible along the track. ruzzolone4They are not allowed to leave the established path even if the launch lands in a ditch or high grass, when everyone then jumps in to try to find it and keep the game going.

Back on the track, the next throw starts from the point at which the wheel landed by the previous companion team member. Precedence of the shot remains with the player at a disadvantage and it is mandatory to follow the set path.

The team that ends the course with the fewest strokes wins the prize, consisting of a round of… (what else?) Pecorino cheese!

Photo 1: Danilo preparing for a throw; Photo 2: Tommaso, ruzzoling (?) in the 1950s; Photo 3: Tommaso rolling strong in 2009; Photo 4: Oops, in the ditch!; Photo 5:  Expert throws like this come only with years of practice. Notice the angle put on the ruzzola to offest the curving, slightly off-cambered road. Perfect!


Evanne Brandon-Diner

by Evanne Brandon-Diner

Chronicler of local village life in Northern Lazio, and property restoration and purchasing consultant.

5 Responses to “Ruzzolone”

  1. louise

    Now, that looks like lots of fun, and you don’t even need to put in a bocce court. Except, how do I get a wheel of cheese from Publix???

  2. jojo

    I’ve witnessed it played with ‘cheese’ not a serious match part way through wine and bread were produced and the game faltered..the wheel was missing !


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