Rogaining in Italy is on the go and hopefully here to stay!

Rogaining in Italy is on the go and hopefully here to stay!

Written by Maurice Ongania                                                                                       Edited by Richard Robinson

Two years on after the first event at San Gimignano in 2012, Rogaining in Italy (Toscana) is looking at three Events in 2015. "It’s the adventure and the excitement of going into unknown territory that gets you in every time" was an view expressed by people coming back to try it for a third time. 

Team Tuscania Fiorentia after two years of participating will organise their first event on the 4th January 2015 in the Chianti area just south of Florence, and on July 18th 2015 the team Banda dei  Malandrini will organise their event in the Arezzo Province,  Pratomagno _ Loro Ciuffenna.  The "experienced" Club combination of IKP and Atletica Valdelsa will then Organise the 4th edition of Medieval Italian Rogaining at San Gimignano in October 2015 but this time there will be 3, 6 and 12 hour events.

It all started way back in 1997 When Alberto Alberti a local retired school teacher proposed an Orienteering competition with the then Council administration and had a map of the historical town centre produced by Maurice Ongania. It wasn't until 2007 when Alberto was looking at organizing another event, that the New council administration realized they had a detailed map of their Historical centre!  "All the drinking fountains are mapped!" They were surprised the map even existed! This lead to the production of a tourist map and later to a detailed GIS map of the trail and road network which were all produced by Maurice. The word had got around to none other than Massimo Bianchi, a more than keen orienteer - trail runner - events organiser that the terrain could be great for a Rogaine!! So Alberto, Maurice and Massimo set about making it happen. With all Massimo's trail running mates Alessio Parauda and Co, who will be in anything that involves running for at least the five hours we had a guaranteed group of competitors. Little did we know that our events would also become well attended by the " deaf and mute" clubs of the Chianti and Lucca areas. Throw in a few orienteers and we had 23 teams and 61 competitors for our first event!

Still our group had never organized or participated in a Rogaine. We thought that some assistance would be useful! So why not get some help and advice from Down Under where it all began. The late Glen Zeven and Frank Ongania keen Rogainers from the ACT sent us maps and internet links and word of mouth experience to excite us, but it took the official guidance of Richard Robinson and David Rowlands to cover the finer points and keep us in the right direction. Massimo set up  Publicising the event on the international calendar also brought rogainers from Latvia; husband and wife combinations of Linda and Aivars Rozkalns and Ilze and Imants Caklis, the latter coming to all three editions

Thus, on October 14th 2012, at the breaking of dawn we were all gathered in the courtyard the old gaol of San Gimignano for the team briefing and map handout. Looking around, teams were busy route planning, a daunting task for the first timers and something you just never forget. The more experienced amongst the group, the "Northerners", were using a string to measure distances, technically advanced we thought! The inexperienced, the "Southerners" or locals used transparent markers, the line work by some of these teams suggested they were going after all the checkpoints! What stood out was watching the deaf and mute teams. Their communication gestures were fascinating and humorous! The speed of the hands!  The velocity of the shake of the wrist to express the degree of disagreement on a proposed route and the smiles when the route satisfied the team we amazing to behold.

What followed was the walk to Piazza Cisterna for the start. Excitement and expectation was written on everyone's face, and as we entered the Medieval Piazza at 7-15 am.  We found it deserted!  So instinctively we went about livening the place up. At 7-30 the "go" signal was given and a huge shout echoed around the Piazza as everyone headed in all directions. After 6 hours judging from people's faces and comments, the event can be said to have been a success, as was the "pasta party" afterwards.

The second edition in 2013 was concentrated on the northern part of San Gimignano and it included more vineyards than forested areas with some tourist landmarks in the form of the Romanic Church of Cellole and abandoned towers as a checkpoints. The event was late in the planning with no publicity; still 27 teams with 69 participants took part.

October 2014 the third edition was held in the south-eastern part of San Gimignano, probably the most picturesque part of the council and there again without publicity we had 28 teams with 75 participants. One comment from a Latvian lady rogainer was "prickly terrain but very interesting"

Massimo Bianchi and his wife Monica are the organising and driving force behind Rogaining in Tuscany (Italy) and Massimo's enthusiasm also to involve people from trail running is fundamental in getting the sport going. He is helping them to organise their very first events in 2015.

For the moment our events are organized by sporting clubs affiliated to federations like the Orienteering (F.I.S.O.), Athletics (F.I.D.A.L.) and our events are listed on their calendar. It's too early for a Rogaining Federation, however we are working to have a circuit of events organised so we can offer rogaining on a regular basis and eventually develop a national competition.

Mapping the terrain is a priority and a small problem as our state 1:25000 maps are out of date and offer little reliable features for navigation. The map of San Gimignano was an exceptional case in that the administration had needs for a tourist map and later GIS map of the track and road network so Maurice was able to take advantage of the situation and produce a field worked map. For the January 2015 event Team Tuscania Fiorentia are producing their map using GPS  tracks on Q-Gis  software as they have a GIS expert amongst their group. Italy is a densely populated country and there are always large areas of fenced-off terrain that need to be shown so it's imperative that relatively detailed fieldwork has to be done.

Plans for the immediate future are to

1.       Publicise the sportthrough trail and running magazines. Providing more and better online information with a new portal.

2.       Projects with Local Authorities- Approach local Authorities (councils and sporting organizations) presenting rogaining as a sport. Using resources from other sporting organizations, invite participation at all levels from those community. Mapping projects that satisfy two outcomes being accurate tourist maps that will then be used for rogaining.

3.       Cycle Rogaine -  We experimented with two groups of cyclists in the last Medieval Rogaine in San Gimignano and we are aiming to invite MTB groups to the Chianti event in January

4.       Rogaining a sport for the family - Here in the Province of Belluno we are forming a group that are interested in promoting Rogaining as a cultural experience for groups to discover the territory. Permanent courses have also been discussed and we will keep the broader rogaining community informed on the progress.

Things are happening here in Italy and hopefully rogaining will have a great future.

Editor’s Note: Maurice spend much of his younger life; living, running and orienteering in Australia. Thus he has significant familiarity with rogaining