Typicalities and traditions

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Tipicita e tradizioni - Typicalities and traditions

Butteri in Maremma

From indefatigable guardians of the herds to custodians of Maremma traditions: today this is the main task of the butteri, the famous cowboys of the Tuscan-Lazio coast.

When the Maremma was organized by large estates, herds of lyre-horned cows and herds of robust horses with bay or black coat grazed in the agricultural expanses. In each lockout (this was the name of the plots intended for grazing, small expanses rich in vegetation left uncultivated) herds of 500 cattle or 150 horses could live; they were strong beasts with robust hooves, suitable for life in those unhealthy and swampy lands. Equally strong and able to adapt had to be the cowboys (a name that means conductor of oxen, goads of oxen), accustomed to hard work outdoors and bad weather. Living in symbiosis with their horses, they traveled kilometers and kilometers every day following the herds.

Among the duties of the cowboys was to keep the groups of animals separate, divided between them based on age, sex and the ability to reproduce. Each group was assigned the most suitable pasture (the richest pastures, for example, were reserved for cows that were nursing calves), and it was necessary that the various groups did not come into contact with each other.

The most difficult moment of the season was that of the market, the marking of calves born during the year; strength and skill were indispensable skills to carry out the operations, but often not sufficient to avoid work accidents (hence the saying: who goes to the market and is not a market to the market has not been).

Among the legends concerning the cowboys, the best known is certainly that of the challenge rodeo against Buffalo Bill: while he was on tour in Italy with his cowboys, Buffalo Bill was contacted by Count Caetani di Sermoneta, who wanted to organize a race of taming wild horses by comparing the American herdsmen and his cowboys. At the end of the competition, the Americans left the reputation of the best tamers to the butters, but escaped with the prize and the proceeds of the evening!

If as far back as 1890 the cowboys were asked to show off their skills also for an audience, as well as for the care of the animals they guarded, this spectacular side has now become the main reason for their existence. The companies that actually employ cowboys for the care of animals are almost extinct, but some associations have been born that keep this traditional figure alive. A first purpose of these associations is to pass on the culture and folklore linked to this special tradition; in practice, however, they allow to know the activities that involved the life of the buttero through shows and taming demonstrations, market simulations, herd management. A show really similar to a rodeo, but all Maremma

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Palio Marinaro dell’Argentario

The Palio dell’Argentario, also known as the Palio Marinaro dell’Argentario, takes place every 15th August in Porto Santo Stefano, the capital of Monte Argentario.

It consists of a rowing regatta (4 rowers and 1 helmsman) which competes four boats, called “guzzi” (classic gozzo) (each boat has the name of a wind, Mistral, Grecale, Libeccio, Scirocco) representing the four city districts :

Croce, Fortezza, Pilarella and Valle. The crews compete for the Palio on a 4,000-meter course divided into 4 lanes, delimited by buoys called buoys, making 5 turns offshore and 4 on the ground. (It turns out to be one of the longest rowing races in the world).
Numerous legends cover the Argentario promontory. Among the most remembered by the local population is the one that sees the origins of the Palio derive from the struggle for the survival of the fishermen of Porto Santo Stefano against the pirates who infested the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

It is likely that the origins of the Palio date back to the time of the State of the Presidi, of which the Argentario was part, between the years 1664 and 1667, even if the historical realities report its probable establishment around 1842, when the Grand Duke Leopoldo II of Tuscany decrees the birth of Monte Argentario, which until then was united with Orbetello. However, it was only in August 1937 that the first regatta regulations were drawn up. Before this event there were simple rowing competitions, until the Municipality of Monte Argentario took over the organization of the event, dictating rules and regulations of what was called PALIO MARINARO DELL’ARGENTARIO.

Up to now, the Palio has been run every year in the stretch of sea in front of the old port of Porto S. Stefano called the “stadium of the turquoise” except for the period from 1940 to 1944, in which it was not disputed due to the Second World War .

The districts participating in the Palio are included in the list of companies belonging to the FICSF Italian Rowing Federation Fixed Seat.

Porto Santo Stefano is divided into four historic districts, all with their own banner:
Croce, whose family name is Crciaioli; in the coat of arms, at the top a gray seagull on a red background, at the bottom a red St. Andrew’s cross on a white background. The Croce district includes most of the original historic core of the town that develops around the main church.

Fortress, whose noble family is fortress-makers; in the coat of arms, on the left the golden Spanish Fortress on a red background, on the right a rampant golden donkey on an amaranth background. The Fortezza district, the only one not in direct contact with the sea, includes the upper part of Porto Santo Stefano that surrounds the ancient Spanish Fortress.
Pilarella, whose family name is pilarellai; in the coat of arms, on the left a golden amphora on a red background, on the right a light gray dolphin on a midnight blue background. The Pilarella district extends from the old port to the panoramic road. It includes the square of the districts and the town hall, the areas with the greatest tourist attraction.

Valle, whose family name is Vallaioli; the colors of the Valle are light blue and white, and his heraldic coat of arms features the ax and the lighthouse. The Valle district extends from the main port of Porto Santo Stefano to the hinterland of Campone, constituting the most important industrial and commercial area of ​​the area.

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May in Maremma

In the night between April 30 and May 1 – in Maremma – the tradition of the ceremonial singing of begging is still alive today in many areas of the Grosseto Maremma, which has its roots in ancient agricultural rites and the passage of the seasons.

This custom, which has come to prevail in the symbolic panorama of the traditional world, in addition to maintaining the spirit of hospitality and the relations of ceremonial exchange, has also made itself visible to the general public through some reviews (remember those of Braccagni and Grancia in the municipality of Grosseto) in which the groups, bearers of tradition, perform by representing their traveling show on stage.

vi del “Maggio” nel territorio grossetano troviamo:

In Grosseto at the end of the 70s and early 80s, thanks to the commitment of the anthropologist Roberto Ferretti (1948 – 1984), some reviews of the Maggi were made that allowed people to get to know and regain possession of this custom. Even today the tradition is present in many areas of the Maremma area, thanks to the teams that are spontaneously formed for the occasion and which often include family groups, friends, acquaintances, lovers of tradition. Today, unlike in the past, the “teams” of the maggiaioli are also made up of women and boys.

So the Maggio in the Grosseto area has many faces and still presents itself with strong colors.
If on the one hand, with the fall of fascism, May 1st asserts itself, in civil society, as the Labor Day, on the other hand in Maremma this custom continues to be the link between the world of work and tradition. representing together the festive and ceremonial moments.

Among the various customs

the “Maggio” in the Grosseto area we find:

– The Maypole which consists in the custom of planting a symbolic tree in the square and watching over it on the night of April 30th (this tradition is still alive in the Manchiano area and in some towns of the Amiata). Some teams of maggiaioli in the revival of the singing May symbolically carry a plant (usually laurel) which has an auspicious meaning and recalls the custom of planting the tree. In this regard there is an illustrious testimony of Giorgio Santi who noted in his “First trip to Monte Amiata” (published in 1795):
… in S. Fiora there is the solemn custom for the first of May to bring a whole tree from the surrounding woods, and to plant with the name of Maggio within the town itself with great celebration and great cheers. I have seen this function every year in France, where it was customary to bring and plant a May as high as possible in front of the house of the First Presidents of Parliaments, in the main cities, in the Fiefs in front of the Castle of the Lord of the place, and in sum in the face of the home of distinguished people and to whom this tribute of customers, respect and homage was offered. (Chapter X pages 183-184)
The Maggiolate canore are however the most widespread in the Grosseto area and become, despite the natural transformation of meaning, an important reference to the peasant and worker roots of many inhabitants of the Maremma.
– The representation of the “Sacred May” or the “Holy Souls of Purgatory” present in the area of ​​Marrucheti (Campagnatico) on which Roberto Ferretti published his own study (in the “Bulletin of the Maremma Historical Society” allows us to grasp the considerable circulation of singing materials transmitted orally between the various areas of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and the Maremma.A similar text is in fact found in the Montepiano area It must be said that this was the only May event authorized in Maremma by the fascist regime.
– May Serenade dedicated specifically to girls. This custom is present in the Albegna Valley occasionally taken up by some group of maggiaioli. Its function is the same as the serenade given by young men to girls. With the lack of use of the serenade, this performance in May has also been considerably reduced.

The traditional culture handed down by the peasant and worker world has been able, even through the May, to represent itself and make itself visible.

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The Balestro del Grifalco

The Balestro del Girifalco, is one of the major medieval historical reenactments in Tuscany, which takes place in Massa Marittima. It consists of a target shooting competition (called Corniolo or Tasso and fixed on a large portrait of Girifalco) with the ancient Italian crossbow.

Except for extraordinary editions, on the occasion of facts and events of great national and / or world impact, the Balestro del Girifalco takes place in the town square twice a year: the fourth Sunday of May and the second Sunday of August.

Each competition takes place between the crossbowmen representing the 3 Terzieri in which the city is divided, since the times of the free municipality. The historical re-enactment counts the presence of about 150 figures, dressed in precious medieval velvet costumes, among which the representatives of the Free Municipality and the ancient Massetan institutions, those of the three Terzieri and the flag-wavers of the Company Sbandieratori e Musici Massetani stand out, who they perform before the start of the competition, which takes place in the beautiful setting of the thirteenth-century Piazza Garibaldi, in front of the famous Cathedral of Massa Marittima.

The three districts are: Cittanuova (with the colors white, red and green), Cittavecchia (with the colors white, black and yellow) and Borgo (with the colors yellow gold, blue and red). Each Terziere is represented by 8 crossbowmen, so that 24 crossbowmen participate in the challenge.
The Balestro includes two fundamental moments: the first on the Saturday before the Sunday in which the challenge is held and the second on the Sunday of the actual competition.
The draw takes place on Saturday. In the Palazzo Comunale, in fact, in the presence of the Municipal Authorities, the Società dei Terzieri and the Terzieri themselves, the firing order is drawn. Usually, the Terziere who is lucky enough to shoot first, has a considerable advantage, due to the fact that the target (dogwood) on the first shot is completely free. The order of shooting is presented with the display of the flags of the three Terzieri on the facade of the Town Hall, in the order of draw.

The following Sunday, the day of the challenge, the main part of the whole Balestro takes place. It begins with the historical parade that winds along the medieval streets of the town. The procession starts from the headquarters of the Società dei Terzieri, from which the figures of the Free Municipality move, with the Banner and the Palio that will go to the winning Terziere. As it progresses, the procession reaches the various premises of the Terzieri, where, from time to time, to the sound of the trumpets and the roll of the drummers, the representatives of the same join the parade. The route ends with the entrance to the square, where all the participants take their places under the eyes of the public, waiting for the flag-wavers to perform their mastery exercises with flags.

After the show of the flags, the trumpets and drummers announce the intervention of the Herald, who reads the announcement and declares the opening of the contest.
Each crossbowman competes with his own crossbow (of the ancient Italian type, as was customary in the 15th century). The crossbow is almost always personal and specially calibrated for its crossbowman. It consists of a wooden frame called teniere to which the steel arch is fixed. The rope is made of natural fiber. The weapon is loaded with a special jack with the walker. The taut rope stops on a rotating cylinder controlled by the trigger lever.

To execute the shot, the crossbowman loads his weapon, places the arrow ready to shoot and, after settling on the shooting station and taking aim, shoots the arrow at the dogwood, which is 36 meters away.
The dogwood has a truncated cone shape and has about 13 cm in diameter and protrudes by 42 cm from a circular base also in wood and with a diameter of 50 cm. It is black, except for the part constituting the actual target, which is white. The center of the target is called a cue ball and is colored black.
The shooter who approaches the ball most of all, brings the victory to his own district to whom the Palio (or Drappellone) of silk painted each time by a different artist will go. The winning crossbowman gets a symbolic golden arrow as a prize. When a Terziere manages to win by occupying the first three positions, he is said to have made a coat.

The Balestro has its roots in the early 14th century, when, according to well documented historical information, the use of the crossbow was practiced with particular care in the Free Municipality and competitions were held between shooters equipped with crossbows.
The Costitutum Civitatis Massae of the early ‘300 speaks of the Magister Balistrarum (Master of the Crossbows) and of the Camerario, keeper of the crossbows and other weapons of the city. Another testimony is made up of a parchment dated 2 August 1497.

But, certainly, much more important is the resolution of the Major Council of 1476 (Statutorum Mag. Civitatis Massae, pars IIa, Distintio IIa, Anno Domini 1476 die X, Augusti) which reads: “In General Council cum adiuncta Communis et Populi Civitatis Massae , servatis solemnitatis opportunis. In presentia cum dignissimum Potestatem et Capitanum Civitatis Massae STATUIMUS, Rub. That a crossbow should be sprung every three months. months, crossbowing three times each time, this is on three days of public holidays, and whoever in those three days will have more hits is given to him a steel crossbow with a walker being Massetan and a resident in Massa and not to others and of this crossbow two pay the Municipality of Massa and the other two the Power, that is each Power one and in this way the young people will be freed from hunting and sent to the laudatory exercise of the crossbow, to be able to ex be useful in the cases and times required “.

In 1959 in Massa Marittima, by the will of some citizens of Massa, eager to recall the ancient glories of the Free Municipality, the Society of Terzieri Massetani was born (currently based in the medieval Palazzina della Zecca), with the aim of recalling and keeping alive the ancient exercise of the art of the crossbow.
The club decided that two competitions should be held each year (except for extraordinary editions on the occasion of particular events): the first on the fourth Sunday of May (May 20 is San Bernardino’s day) and the second on the second Sunday of August. , unless it is moved to coincide with other events on the first following holiday, as per the Statute of the third party company. The May race is in honor of San Bernardino degli Albizzeschi better known as San Bernardino da Siena (co-patron of Massa Marittima who gave him birth), while the one in August commemorates the establishment of the Free Municipality which took place on 31/7/1225. The Company, in 1965, joined the Italian Crossbowmen Federation (F.I.B.). The 100th edition was reached with the Balestro on 25 May 2008.

The Balestro del Girifalco, is one of the major historical re-enactments of Italian crossbow shooting that take place on the Italian territory. Others take place in Lucca and in the Republic of San Marino.
On February 13, 1966, in Arezzo, the delegations of the ancient cities of Massa Marittima, Sansepolcro, Gubbio and San Marino, met to form the Italian National Federation of Crossbowmen, with the aim of preserving and safeguarding the ancient traditions of shooting with the ancient crossbow. Italian style, practiced by the respective cities. The city of Lucca was admitted to join the Federation on April 9, 1972.
In 2010 the Crossbowmen Society of Sansepolcro and the Crossbowman Society of Gubbio left the Federation.

Each year the Federation holds a national tournament between the three federated cities in rotation in each of them.
Massa Marittima has the right to representation in the historical procession of the Palio di Siena, where, at each Palio, it sends four representatives: one for the Municipality (the Capitano del Popolo), and one for each Terziere (three crossbowmen with the crossbow on their shoulders). .

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