Gioco del Ponte (Battle of the Bridge) is a historical reenactment event held every year in Pisa, on the last Saturday of June.
Along with the Luminaria, the Palio di San Ranieri and, every four years, the Regatta of the Historical Maritime Republics, the Gioco del Ponte is part of a series of events entitled Giugno Pisano (Pisan June).
The Battle of the Bridge is held on the beautiful bridge Ponte di Mezzo, between two teams dressed in elaborate 16th century costumes – one representing Mezzogiorno, the districts of Pisa south of the River Arno, and the other representing Tramontana, the districts north of the Arno.
The event has five stages: the march of the troops along the riverbanks of the Arno River, the formal opening of the battle, the call to arms, the challenges made by ambassadors, and finally, the battle itself. In the contemporary version, the game consists in the pushing of an iron cart along a specially mounted track on the Ponte di Mezzo, aiming to conquer the enemy’s side of the bridge.
Gioco del Ponte has its roots in an ancient violent game called Mazzascudo, held on the day of Sant’Antonio Abate, on January 17. Divided into two factions, the citizens of the city fought themselves, with clubs and shields, in the current Piazza dei Cavalieri, which at the time was called Piazza degli Anziani. The game was banned by the Florentines after the occupation of Pisa, in 1407.
The Game has been repeatedly revived and interrupted, over the centuries, undergoing progressive changes to the original formula. At a certain time, the Florentines invented a dispute that was placed on the Ponte di Mezzo, with the clubs and shields being replaced by a wooden board called the Targone. The last battle disputed after this system dates back to 6 February 1807, when the queen regent of Etruria, Maria Luisa, suspended the game again.
The modern version of the game appeared in 1935. During the Second World War, due also to the demolition of the Ponte di Mezzo, the game was suspended. Revived after the war, it was canceled again in 1963. The Gioco del Ponte was resumed, for the last time, in 1981.
GIOCO DEL PONTE 2019 will take place on June 29, on the same Ponte di Mezzo.