Ah June 24, the feast day of St. John the Baptist, patron saint of Florence; time for mass, costumes, Renaissance music, parades and dance in various venues…and a gladiator style competition, Calcio.
“Giuoco del Calcio Fiorentino,” or more simply known as Calcio (which means “kick” in Italian), is that rare combination of 16th Century traditions which continue today, a competition between the four neighborhoods of Florence: Santa Croce (blue), Santo Spirito (white), Santa Maria Novella (red), and San Giovanni (green), to determine a winner.
It was in 1583 that a royal Florentine family, the Bardi’s, decided to create the rules for this competition. Teams went at it against each other using hands, feet…whatever. Part soccer, part rugby, part wrestling match, there are twenty-seven men on each side. The games run for fifty minutes. The winner is decided on the number of goals scored.(Some Florentines claim it is more about the number of men left standing at the end of the game that determines the winner!)
Painted marks placed along the length of the field indicate where, if a ball passes over them, a goal can be scored. The entire width at the narrow ends of the field are, each, one long goal. Six additional linesmen and two referees are on the field to try to keep the combatants relatively contained. Talk about mayhem!
The winning team of the final game takes home…
Chianina cattle are the most highly prized animals in Tuscany, the source of the ever popular Beefsteak Florentine.
The winning team takes home a Chianina calf.
How the calf is raised by the victors following the game is just about anyone’s guess…
For color, pageantry and a sense of Renaissance celebration, the ‘pregame’ is difficult to beat, even when compared to the events prior to the Palio in Siena. There are parades throughout the city, all leading up to the grand finale (see photo above) in the Piazza Santa Croce.
If you happen to be in Florence later this month, I cannot more strongly encourage you to get tickets for the once a year final game on June 24th. The city is essentially closed down for the celebration of St. John the Baptist, so you can mingle in the streets with locals and tourists alike, all who have come to share in the incredible celebration. Plan to be in your seat(s) in Piazza Santa Croce by 3:30PM so that you can enjoy the entire spectacle.
The fireworks display at dusk, conclusion of the days’ activities, is well worth seeing, especially from the Ponte Santa Trinita or Ponte alle Grazie.
Tickets sell quickly, especially for the afternoon shaded seats in Tribune (Section) A. Ticket costs for 2016 are between Euro 22 and Euro 53.
2016 Calcio Storico Fiorentino
June 11th: The “Greens” of San Giovanni will challenge the “Whites” of Santo Spirito in Piazza Santa Croce at 5pm.
June 12th: The “Reds” of Santa Maria Novella will go against the “Blues” of Santa Croce (also at 5pm).
Calcio Storico Information about the Events (In Italian, though relatively easy to understand for those who do not speak Italian.)
Starting at 11am on Friday, June 3, you can purchase tickets locally for the semi finals and, after 12 June, the finals, at Box office Toscana points.
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