Pilote is an ancient game played in Gemona del Friuli
Pilote is an ancient game played in Gemona del Friuli, and particularly by the inhabitants of Borgo del Ponte between the beginning of June and the festival of San Roche (August 16th), the patron of the neighbourhood of San Rocco in the town’s historic centre.
The playing field in Via della Cella is marked with lines of white stones on the porphyry pavement.
In the game of Pilote, the players toss a small ball back and forth, striking using their hands as if they were rackets; the two opposing teams are traditionally referred to as “gjambars e cocis” (shrimp and pumpkins – symbols of the historic town centre). The game has no established duration, but continues until one of the two teams has won, on the basis of an unusual method of assigning points and calculating the score, one of the things that makes Pilote such a unique and fascinating game. A tournament of the traditional game of Pilote is now played among the various hamlets making up the municipality of Gemona, in place of the historic team names.
The game used to be played in ceremonial outfits, but now every team has its own “uniform” featuring the characteristic colours associated with the hamlet (which appear in all the challenges between the hamlets of Gemona, such as the palio del Niederlech or the football tournament)
An entertaining tradition preserved unchanged over the centuries states that the losing team must pay for a round of drinks for the winning team and the referee, referred to as the “tajùt” (glass of wine).
Lastly, it’s important to note the particular manufacture of the ball, consisting of a core made of horsehair or marsh grass (grene) wrapped in several layers of leather, making it soft but not particularly light, so that it caused – and still causes – the players’ hands to redden, especially if they are beginners at the game or have particularly delicate hands, requiring frequent cooling in the fountain in front of the church of San Rocco.