Why Italy is running to save pétanque

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For Valenti, local dialects are a crucial aspect of life in small Italian towns. “The dialect, like the game of pétanque, was a way of establishing our identity,” he said.

Over the past five years, the retired English teacher has helped create a local vocabulary dictionary as part of the Alimentiamo la Memoria (infants memory) research project, funded by the Tre Fiumi Library ( three rivers) of the village. Yet Valenti also knows full well that due to globalization and the influence of mass media, local dialects have been reduced to places like bocciodromo, where generations who grew up without television have congregated for decades. decades.

Yet pétanque is no longer as popular a pastime as it once was. “The needs of young people have changed so much from ancient times,” Valenti said with a hint of nostalgia in his voice. “Sixty years ago, each osteria [local restaurant] had its own petanque grounds. This is where we meet to play on summer evenings and vacations. At the games, there were entertainment, friends and even pretty girls.

The referee blew his whistle and Valenti who was supposed to score apologized, turned on his heel and left me alone to watch the rest of the game.

I watched the players, trying to understand what they were saying. One after the other, they think about the position of the pétanque at the other end of their lane and then leap forward, throwing their own ball towards their target: the pétanque or el balai (the small ball that the players have need to send their bocce near to score). The men hummed and raised their hands whenever a boccia came close to their opponent’s boccino.

“A gh’era no d’andà su!” A gh’era da bucià o mat na bucia in the background. Paragia su ciapa al balai u po fa partìa! ” a man shouted angrily at his partner, gesturing wildly with his hands. I got the gist of it they were on the verge of losing the game – but I couldn’t figure out the details.

“What are they saying?” Desperate, I asked the man next to me for help.

“Don’t you understand the dialect?” His expression suggested he knew he was asking a rhetorical question. He went on to explain, in Italian: “That man over there complained that his mate didn’t hit the boccino. If he had, they could have won the game.

Two courts to my left, another player was arguing with the referee.


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