Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

The relaxing ball game that can be played anywhere

Soccer may be the official sports passion of Italy, but there’s another ball game that attracts almost as many fans and players – bocce. You may not know it by name, but you’ll have seen bocce played in the movies – particularly those set in rural France or Italy. The game is played with a set of 8 heavy (often silver) balls and a smaller, white one called the jack. The jack is thrown, then players on two sides take it in turns to throw their balls towards it. When all balls are thrown, the team with the balls closest to the jack win.

While no-one would claim bocce is the most exciting game in Italy, it’s perfect for playing on a lazy summer’s day and players don’t need to be fit to enjoy it, making it particularly popular with older Italians. It can be played almost anywhere on soft surface, turning the soil, dirt and gravel of many small Italian towns into instant sports-grounds.

The popularity of bocce has led to conflict in the past, with the game outlawed in 1576 by the Republic of Venice because it was believed it distracted soldiers from their duty. Luckily