Calcio fiorentino is not a sport for the nice and gentle. It derives from “harpastum”: fighting over a rag ball, which was the training of choice for Roman legionnaires – not exactly what you would call sweetness and light.
It is, however, a noble and ancient sport that makes the people of Florence very proud. Pride indeed has a lot to do with this tradition, as the most famous match of calcio fiorentino ever was held in 1530, when the city was under siege by Emperor Charles V and – although heavily burdened by isolation and embargo – its people refused to give up this athletic challenge, proving to the enemy their courage, disregard of danger, love for freedom and pride.
In the spirit of this tradition, next June 24th, 2016, Piazza Santa Croce will once again see 54 players (27 on each team) from two of the four formations that represent the city’s historical districts – White, Blue, Red and Green – compete in the final match.
It’s obviously an exciting and fun sports event. The objective is to get the ball in the opponent team’s goal, following some very detailed rules… and sometimes bending those rules, or breaking them with a good dose of physical vigor.
Watching a calcio fiorentino game, it’s hard to believe that some very refined gentlemen – and even future popes, like Clement VII, Leo XI and Urban VIII – once enjoyed this sport.
But it’s true – and it’s just one more example of how interesting and incredible the history of Florence has always been.