The ‘ntinna a mari (literally “Antenna on the sea”) is a traditional game that takes place in Cefalù, in the province of Palermo, every 6th August, the last day of the celebrations of the SS. Salvatore, patron saint of the town.

A pole, covered with soap or grease, is fixed to the pier and horizontally overhanging the sea, with a flag (the flag of the Holy Savior) placed at the end. 17 participants, traditionally the sons of the fishermen of the village, compete to reach the flag.

The race also consists of a spectacular farce in which thousands of spectators participate both from the beach and from the boats. Many of the participants, usually the first to enter the competition, take funny poses or wear women’s clothes in order to entertain the audience and cause laughter. For the most skilled players, who in ancient times used the opportunity of the race also to show off in front of the girls of the village, the organizing committee intervenes in the race by swinging the antenna, through a rope attached to the tip of the trunk and covering it several times with soap or grease, to make it even more slippery.

There are numerous dips and falls that spectators witness before a participant manages to win the race.

The origin of the game is very ancient; indeed it seems that the competition may have originated in some games that sailors played on their own boats. Indeed, there are certificates of names of winners of the ‘Ntinna a mari dating back already to the nineteenth century, which demonstrate that the participants to the competition belonged to the families of the local fishermen.

Buttitta I. E., Palmisano M. E. (a cura di), Santi a mare: ritualità e devozione nelle comunità costiere siciliane, Regione siciliana, Assessorato dei beni culturali e ambientali e della pubblica istruzione, Dipartimento dei beni culturali e ambientali, dell’educazione permanente e dell’architettura e dell’arte contemporanea, Palermo, 2009
Marsala S. (a cura di). Cefalù. ‘Ntinna a mari. Secolare tradizione marinara. Patrimonio della città, Salvatore Marsala Association, Cefalù, 2002
REIMAR website