Calcio Storico, which literally translates to ‘Historical Football’, is one of the most highly anticipated football events that takes place in Florence every third week in June; and we all know how serious Italians are about their football.
If you don’t believe me, just witness the Historic Parade that leads up to the event itself. Hundreds of spectators come from near and far to gather and watch as those participating in the parade march proudly in historical costumes worn as the “400th yearly observance during the Siege of Florence, the Battle of Gavinana and the death of Florentine and Italian hero Francesco Ferrucci”.The parade banner portrays a red lily on a white background with the words “FIORENZA” proudly underlined. Are you catching on to the magnitude of this yet?
As indicated by the historical parade, the sport dates back to as early as 16th century medieval Italy and is held in Piazza Santa Croce.
This square is one of the main stop of many city tours and there’s also placed the Dante statue, the Florentine poet who wrote the “Divina commedia”, the poem that inspired Dan Brown on his last best seller Inferno.
Set on a giant sand pit with narrow openings across both ends of the pit and regarded as the goal, the game is, “played in teams of 27, using both feet and hands…a main referee, six linesman and a field master” anything goes when it comes to this sport. This can include punching, choking and even head-butting your opponent. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted as the game can definitely turn into a bloody one, and most often does.
There are four teams that participate in this annual football event that were distinguished through the, “divisions [that] refer to Florence’s 16th century transformation into quarters, overriding the previous “seizures” (districts)” and they are as follows:
Santa Maria Novella – the Northwest quarter of the city (The Reds)
- San Giovanni – the Northeast quarter of the city (The Greens)
- Santa Croce – the Southeast quarter of the city (The Blues)
- Santo Spirito – the Southwest quarter of the city (The Whites)
This year, I was fortunate enough to attend the Finals twice. Typically held on the 24th of June, the same day as Festa di Firenze, we got as far as the opening ceremonies until it was announced that the game needed to be rescheduled due to terrible weather. A week later, on the 30th of June, with the sun shining brightly, we once again made our way to Santa Croce to watch The Blues and The Whites duke it out; what an understatement that was.
With both sides of the stands screaming at the top of their lungs, the piazza filled with chants of either district. Banners and signs waved proudly as I sat in a sea of white and gazed at the literal mass of people in blue from across me. There’s no sitting at this event either. It’s not that you’re not allowed, in fact, the stands are bleachers, but the excitement is so palpable that you can’t help but stand along with the heaps of people as the sun beams down and a surge of passion swells inside of you to cheer for a team.
Once the players enter the field and the energy intensifies, it’s really begun. Although sucker punching and kicks to the head are forbidden, these men don’t hold back. I even joked with a colleague of mine that it was like watching Gladiator but in a football meets wrestling meets rugby sort-of-way. The game itself goes for roughly fifty minutes and all the while that it’s happening – medics are swiftly and routinely running into the pit as various members from each of the teams get knocked out or injured badly. The fans show no remorse either, the chants and swearing continue as bottles of water are thrown into the pit in hopes of hitting a member of the opposing team. By the end of the match, the horn has sounded and The Blues have won with a 2-0 victory. The other side of the river may have lost this time, but who knows what next year may hold. I know I’m hoping to be there for it!