Calcio Storico

Florence, Italy

Calcio Storico photo
Photograph courtesy of Visit Florence

Calcio Storico

Words by Paul Dodson

Steeped in almost 500 years of tradition and described loosely as a mix between football and rugby — with a good dose of bare-knuckle boxing added to the mix — Calcio Storico is not a game for those who flinch at the site of blood.

Calcio Storico can be traced back as far as February 17, 1530, although different accounts have it dating back even further. At that time Florence had been over-run by the imperial troops of Charles V and at Florence's Piazza Santa Croce a match was played between the Bianchi and the Verdi as an outward sign of contempt and provocation.

Today, players still dress in authentic period costume and parade to the Piazza through the historic centre of Florence where they are introduced to the spectators and the Seigniory — usually an important guest of the city.

Then the game begins. There are two teams each made up of 27 combatants. The playing field is a giant sand pit with a goal running the width of each end. There is a main referee, six linesmen and a field master who intervenes in the very likely event of fisticuffs. Each game is played out for 50 hard fought minutes with the winner being the team that has amassed the most points or 'cacce'.

So amidst a colourful display of period costume, blood and team coloured smoke bombs the battle unfolds in front of thousands of cheering locals and tourists in Florence for the spectacle.

The prize? Well, the winning team receives a pile of steaks of a weight equivalent to that of a white calf. I'll take mine rare with a nice drop of Barbaresco.

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Games are held in late June and early July to coincide with the celebration of St. John's Day in Florence's Piazza Santa Croce. Check dates with local sources.

Accommodation in Florence for Calcio Storico

La Terrazza Su Boboli B&B

from USD123 per night

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