Tag Archives: palla 21

A “palla 21” ball is on its way to Colorado (USA)

Last year we were contacted by Noel C. , a physical education high school teacher based in the Denver, Colorado, area. Noel found out through the internet about the existence of palla 21 (aka palla eh!), and he contacted us to explain about his project: teach the game to his students, and possibly write some articles, or a book, about this story.

We told Noel that we were flattered about his interest and that we have several videos and text explanations to provide guidance. But, there was a big but…the ball, the ball…how can you teach a ball game without the proper ball?

Noel wrote that he had been looking for the palla a 21 balls on Amazon and did not find them. This was possibly a joke, since he had seen the videos where the ball is made by hand, but we appreciated the spirit. So, after various consultations with selected representatives of the pibinko.org network we decide to go for it and put a rare palla a 21 (or palla eh!) ball in the hands of an international courier.

At this point with the Tuscan ball players we are following with trepidation the tracking for the ball (and you can do it as well: https://www.mbe.it/it/tracking?c=270514124149), and when the ball will arrive we will give you more news.

To give a little emphasis to this moment, together with Sean Connerie and Silvia from Centro Color in Follonica, Tuscany, we prepared a little “boxing video” (normally people do “unboxing” videos)…

In 2007 we went with a crew of 21 people from Tuscany to Chicago to demonstrate palla a 21 (or palla eh!). In 2024 we are looking forward to see a ball from the Tuscan Metalliferous Hills making people play in Denver, Colorado, and we will see where this will bring!

Musica: i Lubrophonics

Oct. 11-13, 2019: 9th European Llargues Club Cup (Monticiano/Torniella/Ciciano, Tuscany) & Exhibition on the game of palla in Monticiano (until Oct. 27)

Following the traditional palla eh! and palla a 21 Summer tournaments in Southern Tuscany, the beginning of the Autumn brings in the same area a very peculiar event: the ninth European Llargues Cup for clubs.

Llargues is one of the variants of hand-ball games played across Europe, especially in the Valencian region in Spain, with close relations to games played in the Basque country, in France, Belgium and the Netherlands (as well as Southern Tuscany and Piedmont).
Since 2006 some of the Tuscany players had the opportunity of participating in various llargues tournaments abroad. This year Tuscany finally has the honour of hosting in the Merse and Farma Valley, South of Siena, one of the main events for this discipline in Europe.

The teams into play will be Scalvaia and Torniella, as “home teams” from Tuscany, Benidorm, Parcent, and Relleu (from the Valencian Region in Spain), Kersken and Thieulain (Belgium), Maubeuge (France), in addition to a selection of players from the Basque Country.
The presentation of the teams will be on October 11 at 7PM in Monticiano. A first round of games will be then held on October 12 in Monticiano, Torniella, and Ciciano. Semi-finals and finals will then be on October 13 in Monticiano.

To further celebrate this event, an exhibition on the game of palla has been set up at the Biodiversity Museum in Monticiano. Here information on the game, images on the palla tournaments since the Seventies and various items will be on display. The exhibition will thus provide an opportunity to learn more about a discipline surviving in Italy in just a few rural niches, but which in past ages had a much wider diffusion in Europe.

The exhibition may be visited until Oct. 27. On Thursdays and Fridays from 3PM to 6PM, and between 10.30AM and 6PM on Saturdays and Sundays.

These events are promoted by Unione Sportiva Scalvaia, Municipality of Monticiano, Municipality of Chiusdino, Municipality of Roccastrada, Federazione Italiana Pallapugno, Confédération International Jeux de Balle, with the patronage of Regione Toscana.

For more information: 338 477 8350

You may also follow the official Facebook page for these events (in Italian).

Geo Bernardini interviewd on Palla eh/palla a 21 in Tirli, Tuscany

Realizzata nella seconda parte dell’intervento nell’ambito del corso di formazione per il patentino dell’ospitalità del Comune di Castiglione della Pescaia (GR), giovedì 7 marzo a Tirli (vedi annuncio e articolo su Il Tirreno ed. Grosseto).

Geo Bernardini, introduced by Massimo Signori (aka The Boss , and ball-maker) tells how the palla eh! or palla a 21 ball was made just after WW2.

Thanks to Cristian from Il Leccio Moro for their hospitality, and to Carolina Corsali for the organizational support.

The, if you are curious of checking how the ball is made today, see the videos with Ilo Ferrandi in Torniella ( 2007 or 2018)

The game

Palla 21, also known as Palla Eh!, is an ancient game played in a few (currently six) small villages in Southern Tuscany, Italy. Documented traces of games practically identical to Palla 21 in Italy are dated to the 16th century, while it is suspected that the origin of these games goes further back in time.

The game is in fact part of a wider family of handball games. More renown variants include Valencian pelota from Spain, the Dutch Kaats, the Belgian Balle Pelote, or Pallone Elastico in Piedmont, Northern Italy, not to mention other pelota games in Latin America.

The rules of Palla 21/Palla Eh! are quite complex, and the best way to get into the game is actually to attend a match with mentoring by one of the senior players. This has also the advantage of appreciating the full context for the game, where the spectators are also an element in the game (figure 1).

Some key information

  • the game is played by two teams of five
  • the ball, which is hand made, has a diameter of approximately 4 cm and a weight between 35 and 40 grams (figure 2)
  • there is no standard field. Each village has a space where the game is played -normally the main square- with different characteristics. The resulting field, in any case, has a rectangular shape (around 30×150 feet, at least – see photo 3 for Torniella). Any natural or artificial element of the square is part of the game: i.e the ball can bounce on walls, roofs, drive through tree canopy, and still be valid.
  • the ball is hit alternately by the two teams, and can be hit back as long as it bounces once (at the most), like tennis
  • Also the scoring system is just like tennis (15,30,40,advantage, game, set). Each set counts a score of 7, and three sets make 21, which leads to win an inning. The match is won with two innings out of three.
  • the game starts by serving. Service always takes places from the same side, so the teams switch sides as needed. The service, called “mando”, is a very scenic part of the game and not all players have the technical skills and ability to serve
  • points are scored when one side is not able to hit the ball back, either because the ball bounces in the field and then gets out of reach, or because of fouls (e.g. if the ball is hit back with any part of the body except the palm of the hand, if two players of the same team hit the ball one after the other, etc.)
  • the peculiarity of the game is that there is no pre-defined mid field. The midfield line is set by stopping the ball after it has bounced twice at any moment of the game. In the spot where the ball has been stopped, a marking will be made -known as “caccia”- normally with chalk. At the end of a tournament, the field is scattered with lines.

    This action is repeated twice. In the process of defining these two lines, points can still be scored, as the teams may still lose points if the ball goes out of the sides, or is hit irregularly.
  • once the two midfield markings are defined, the teams will switch sides. In this phase of the game, in addition to the previous systems, the points will be assigned by playing using the “cacce” as the midfield. The point will be lost if the ball stops after the second bounce on “your” side of the field. Once a point is made in relation to a “caccia”, the line will be erased, and the game will continue, proceeding to define the next pair of lines.
  • The duration of a match is extremely variable, as there is no tie break. Also, there is no referee on the field, so any dispute is managed by all of the players
  • While the competition on the field can get fierce, all tournaments will end with celebrations and partying where the same teams get together, so the game is also a great opportunity for the village communities to meet and have a good time
  • Tournaments take place normally from mid-July through September.

For a more formal description of the rules (in Italian): wikipedia.