I recently had the pleasure of travelling to Valencia in Spain to try my hand at a new sport, Pilota. I watched a few videos before departing from Ireland and was eagerly anticipating getting to grips with the sport. While researching Pilota, I realised there were a number of versions including team and individual games, with different variations of the sport played in both the Basque and Valencian regions of Spain. The Basque version of Pelota uses a racket of sorts, while the Valencian version uses hands, and its similarities to handball here in Ireland didn’t go unnoticed. So, I set off from my home in the town of Newcastle beneath the famous Mourne Mountains and caught a flight from Dublin to Alicante, before making the short journey to Valencia to get an education in all things Pilota.
I managed to meet a famous Pilota player called Fredi who introduced us to Raspall, the version we were going to be watching. The game itself was played in a hall that just looked like your standard town hall but was built to accommodate a few hundred supporters, many of who were older gentlemen. It really is an end to end sport, and while it wouldn’t be as quick as hurling, when the guys get going, the ball can hit speeds of upwards of 100 kmph. Sitting down in the crowd you get a real sense for the game and need to have your whits about you to avoid getting a heavy, leather ball clip you on the ear (this happened to someone just down from us and it didn’t look good).
The local council are doing all they can to bring Pilota back to the heart of Valencia and the next time I return to the city, I look forward to experiencing a game of Pilota in the city, rather than heading to towns like Bellreguard on the outskirts of Valencia. For those of you that have never been to Valencia, I’d highly recommend heading along. With flights at various times in the year from Dublin to both Valencia and Alicante, Valencia has everything that the likes of Barcelona has to offer but can be a little bit quieter. Having been a few times, it’s a firm favourite of ours.
Check out the video below to find out a bit more about Pilota.
Plan a trip to Valencia today
About the author: Nial Toner is a food and travel blogger from County Down in Northern Ireland. Hailing from the town of Newcastle beneath The Mourne Mountains, Nial shares his food and travel experiences of Ireland and beyond along with his wife Helen on their blog, Pikalily.com.