Whilst out driving with some friends on Thursday we negotiated a hairpin bend only to be faced with, not a car coming towards us in the middle of the road, (see last week’s blog) but what looked like a wheel of cheese! Being inquisitive, we slowed right down and waited. We then watched a man chuck the cheese as far as he could, uphill, using a rope with a wedge of wood, it as the launcher. We were intrigued to know more and it transpired he was having a sneaky practice before the National Cheese Throwing competition this weekend. Emphasis on the word National…
We live in a small town in a country area of Le Marche in Italy and I am often surprised at the National and International events that take place in my town or in other small villages close by.
My husband and I (sounds rather royal doesn’t it?) decided we would be spectators at this unusual Cheese Rolling event so took ourselves along to Monte Giberto, only a few kilometres down the road from us, in time for the afternoon session. I asked a lot of questions and took a great many photos. Everyone was jolly and having a thoroughly good time. There seem to be about six or eight teams taking part and the competitors were very enthusiastic, the usual hand waving, raised voices, shouts of encouragement and possible insults. An Italian gathering often reminds me of a farmyard full of turkeys, ducks, geese and chickens all trying to be heard above each other.
I have to say an hour was just about long enough for us, I think you would need to be a real enthusiast to watch for the whole weekend. Unfortunately (or not) we won’t be able to go back and watch the finals tomorrow as we’re off to Bologna for the day. Also, rain is forecast and soggy cheese may not cover the ground so well. I was pretty staggered to see how far some of the men could launch the cheese, uphill as well!
Today were the qualifying heats. I can’t possibly explain it all in detail and I’m sure you’re not that interested so I’ll just give you the facts as I ascertained them.
Flags are set out along the road about 20metres apart and the cheeses are thrown from the bottom of the course uphill. The distance they had to travel was not specified (read that as nobody actually knows) but they had 8 throws to get a 20 kilo Parmesan Cheese from the bottom to the top. At the end of each throw, the road was marked with the number of the competitor and how many throws, then the next throw went from that spot. The competition tomorrow will be slightly different with sizes varying from 1 to 22 kilos. The course is longer for the smaller cheeses. How long? About as long as a piece of string……
The competitors were very serious about their cheeses, taking care to clean them of any road debris before each throw, picking out bits of gravel, wiping down. My husband said it reminded him of the pits at Le Mans. We did ask, as a joke, if they ate any of them after they’d finished the competition to which we were told, ‘only if they break!’ Seems an awful waste of cheese to me.
You may think I am being cynical but I don’t mean to be, not at all. It was fun and I love the Italian enthusiasm for this crazy type of event. I believe they also do cheese throwing in the UK. Perhaps someone can enlighten me on that?
In the photos the cheese is actually running uphill…..although sometimes it looks as though it’s going down.