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Calcio Fiorentino: A punishing sport!

One of the most punishing of Italian sports


Calcio Fiorentino is one of the earliest forms of modern day football, dating back to the 16th Century. It isconsidered one of the most physically punishing games, with head-butting, elbowing and choking all allowed within the rules.

As you may be able to tell from the name, the game has its origins in the beautiful city of Florence where the first games were played between rich aristocrats in the Piazza Santa Croce. The original rules were written in 1580 and pit two teams of 27 men against each other for 50 minutes, the objective being similar to that of modern football, getting the ball into the other team’s goal known as a caccia. The game is steeped in regal tradition, in 1530 when Florence was under siege from The English a match took place in defiance of The Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. In 1574, Henry III of France whilst in Venice had a game staged in his honour where he remarked the game was “too small to be a real war and too cruel to be a game.”

While initially very popular in the 17th century, enthusiasm for the sport slowly declined until it was revived in 1930 and declared a game in the Kingdom of Italy. Currently, three matches are played each year in Piazza Santa Croce in the 3rd week of June between four teams: Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, Santo Spirito and San Giovanni wearing the colours of each quartiere. The final is contested between two teams and takes place on the feast day of St John the Baptist, patron saint of Florence.

This year’s winners, Santo Spirito Bianchi defeated Santa Croce Azzurri in a closely contested final 61/2 – 6. Next time you’re planning a trip to Florence, make sure to try and catch a game of this ancient and fascinating game, not for the feint hearted! 

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