They day the ball got me – Connecting tiny Tuscan villages and large USA towns

[originally published on the platform]

In December 2006, due to an overly long connection between flights in Chicago, USA, I ended up spending a couple of hours downtown…in a totally unplanned fashion.

In this brief outing, I ended up learning about an opportunity to submit applications for ideas in the Summer 2007 calendar of events by the City of Chicago (an initiative called “The Art of Play”).

This triggered some creative thinking on the flight back, and eventually generated between January and June 2007 the organisation -from scratch- of the trip by twenty players of an ancient Tuscan ball game, played to date in six tiny villages…the project, named “Palla 21: dalla Toscana a Chicago (e ritorno)” turned out to be a combination of a cultural exchange project (with connections to an Institute of Italian Culture), a capacity-building initiative (as none of the organisers had previous experience in similar projects), obtaining local and national media coverage (on both sides of the pond), and -last but not least- managing to create an inter-ethnic USA team to play with during our visit.

The initiative, which also required fund raising to bring fifteen people from Italy to the US, was supported almost completely by the local communities of the *tiny* (population < 1000, combining all the areas involved) villages in Tuscany: Torniella, Scalvaia, Piloni (and partly Ciciano).
This involved card game tournaments, lotteries and lots of prizes in ham and wine.

All this starting from a game that I saw played once in 1987, for twenty minutes, at my uncle’s home place in Southern Tuscany, and no previous connections to make it work.

At the end of the day: all those who took part in the project were overwhelmed, many others were interested, and other initiatives were spawned later.

But the Chicago event was when the ball got me.

More information is available on

A video trailer for the documentary from the trip to the States is at: