Ring Alivio: Italian Tag

Ring Alivio (pronounced by informant as both Ring Uh-Leevy-oh and Ring Leevy-oh) is an Italian version of tag where one person is It and everyone else is at base, which is a safe area. Running out of the safe area means you can get caught by the person who’s It, but you leave the safe area to show you can run out and back to base without getting captured. Once captured, you go to jail, which you cannot leave. Once everyone is captured and taken to jail a new person becomes It.

Ring Alivio described verbatim by informant:

“Ring Alivio: a game of tag. One guy was It and uh anytime a person left the base which was a safe area he had to capture that person in the jail and once he captured everybody uh a new person became It so we used to play it all the time on the playground um because we didn’t have any other games we could really play we didn’t have balls. It was really interesting because most of my friends were Irish American but we still called it Ring Alivio. We learned it from some of the older Italian kids.

We played it from kindergarten through the sixth grade, because, again you know it was the only game we could play on the playground because it was just a big concrete parking lot… at Catholic school. (disruptive dog howl) We had a lot of fun. I remember uh [my mother] was very upset with me because in my first year of Catholic School I tore my I tore five pair of pants because the uh um you know I played, I played and sometimes the game got a little rough and playing on concrete all the time if ever you fell and scraped your knees you’d scrape the knees right off your pants so she was kind of upset with me after that first year. And, well, I had a uh I once got slammed into a bus. So.

The parked buses were, are base, and so you hold your hand against the bus um and then you run out and you run back to the bus and one day I ran back to the bus but the guy who was chasing me didn’t stop and he just ran up my back and slammed my head into the bus, the side of the bus, and I busted all my teeth.

Once you leave base you can get caught… you leave base because you’re tough you’re provocative. Who wants to stay in at home? You want to run (cooking wife interjects and he repeats what she says) You want to be free. (dog howls) You wanted to prove to the guy who was It that you were faster, that he couldn’t catch you.”

The first thing that comes to my mind is that “ali,” in Italian, means wings, which allow one to fly and be free, though the informant was not sure as to how Ring Alivio should be spelled. The theme of purposefully leaving a safe place to be wild and free, knowing the threat of getting caught and being thrown into jail, appears to be characteristic of the age group. From 6/7 to 12/13 when this game is played, kids lose their child-like “innocence” as they become aware of their choices and begin making deliberate actions. The person who’s It captures them and puts them in jail, where they are stripped of such freedoms, which perhaps holds a dramatic resemblance to punishments by parents, teachers, or other authority figures. That this game was wildly popular at a Catholic School in the 1960’s is no surprise, with the rigidity of the belief system and inherent strictness surrounding all behavior at such an institution. Running free in the game of Ring Alivio is a benign way of resisting this oppressive feeling, all the while leveling the natural competition between kids during that time when social hierarchy becomes more and more apparent.