Panicale is a small, medieval municipality hidden away in the hills of Umbria. The town’s narrow roads form concentric ovals around the Piazza Podesta, once a defensive measure, now really good for rolling wheels of cheese!
Italians celebrate Pasquetta, the Monday after Easter, in various ways. Each village, area and region has different traditions, and Panicale’s is called “ruzzolone”. This loosely translates to “tumble” or “fall” in English, and seems appropriate as this annual competition involves villagers splitting into teams and hurling hunks of pecorino through the streets. They even wrap a piece of leather around the wheel so that they have a good grip on it before releasing it down or up the hills. The contestants yell out,“attenzione, il formaggio è pericoloso!” (“be careful, the cheese is dangerous!”) and continuously heckle one another in good fun throughout the event. It’s quite the sight, as the crowd runs after the cheese and the competitors hope it doesn’t get stuck under a Fiat or lost off in a bush with each turn.
The winner is determined by whoever gets the cheese through the course in the fewest strokes, so it’s a bit like a combination of golf and bowling. This lucky winner gets to keep the cheese at the end! One has to wonder though, what would you do with a wheel of cheese thats been all over town?
Featured Photo Credit: Sue O