Unique Sports Advent Calendar – December 6: Calcio Fiorentino

My predictions from yesterday’s post were bang on.

Now, in a sport straight from Florence (which was the name of my old primary school German teacher. Hi Mrs Bowen), Italy – Calcio Fiorentino, or Florentine Football.


Calcio originated in 15th-century Italy, with there being evidence of a match played on a frozen-over river in 1490. It was played by rich aristocrats between Epiphany and Lent, and one match was held on February 17, 1530, in defiance of Charles V.

Popes had been known to play the game, and in 1574 Henry III, the French king, attended a match in his honour. He remarked of it that it was “too small to be a real war and too cruel to be a game”. Giovanni de’ Bardi, a Florentine count, wrote the first rules in 1580. (No translation this time, sorry.)

In the early 17th century, interest in the game waned, but it was reorganised in 1930 under Benito Mussolini. Teams from each quartiere of Florence compete in the tournament nowadays, known by their colours – Azzuri, Rossi, Bianchi, and Verdi (Blue, Red, White, and Green).

How to Play

You need 27 players a side. These are split into four goalkeepers, three full backs, five halfbacks, and fifteen forwards. Meet on a 40x80m sandy court.

The match starts when the ball is thrown or kicked to the centre line. At the first whistle, the forwards begin fighting in an absolutely insane form of mixed martial arts (no sucker punches or kicks to the head, but otherwise, pretty much anything goes). The only real criteria with the fights is that they need to be one on one.

When enough players are incapacitated, others can swoop in to get the ball. They can, by any means necessary, get the ball into the net from then. If you kick or throw it over the net, though, the opponent gets half a goal. The match lasts 50 minutes, with the highest score being the winner.

In older times, the prize for winning used to be a type of cow, but now it’s a free dinner.

Who’s on Top?

The final is held each year on June 24th, St. John’s Day (he’s the patron saint of Florence). Santo Spirito, the Bianchi, beat Santa Croce, the Azzuri, 6.5 to 6 this year.


It is not a sport in Australia, for obvious reasons.


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