Once again this June in Florence, like every year, there was Historic Florentine Soccer. Hotel Minerva closely followed the event this year, as it is located in one of Florence’s four historic districts. This is what happened.
On Saturday, June 15, I finally got to go to see a match of “Historic Florentine Soccer” for the first time since I’ve lived here. Facing off in the first semi-final were the “Rossi” (Reds) of Santa Maria Novella (which is the one I was rooting for as their area includes where I live) and last year’s winners, the “Bianchi” (Whites) of Santo Spirito. Before I saw the match, I wanted to be sure not to miss the military parade in 16th-century period costumes that started right from our Piazza Santa Maria Novella!
The players of the four teams taking part in the tournament as well as hundreds of characters in costume came together in our gorgeous square to cross the city center and get to Piazza Santa Croce where the match was played.
The feeling in the air was amazing! I finally understood how much Florentines get into this event.
Once we got to Santa Croce, the parade went onto the field that is set up for the event. The field is twice as long as it is wide and covered with sand and a white line that separates the field into two identical areas. Along the entire short sides a net is put up in which the players try to put the ball.
The two sets of hard-core fans at each end of the field make for a fabulous display of color!
To first to introduces themselves to the crowd were the “Bandierai degli Uffizi” who put on an enchanting show with flags. Then they made way for rest of the parade’s participants and the teams.
After everyone took their places, the loudspeaker broadcast the traditional “salute to the command” (a kind of call to arms!). This was followed by a firing of the cannon and the tribute to the “Magnifico Messere” usually a well-known public figure (this year it was Emiliano Viviano, the Florentine soccer team’s goalkeeper and born-and-bred Florentine).
Then the field was emptied leaving “only” the 54 players of the two teams (27 per team) and the match began.
It’s name notwithstanding, it has hardly a thing to do with modern soccer!
It lasts 50 minutes and the goal is to put the ball in the net on the opposing team’s field, which is making a “caccia” or point.
No question, the show isn’t for the squeamish! The means that the players use are not always the nicest. In fact, it’s not infrequently that the game is stopped to bring help to an injured player or even bring a stretcher on the field.
Let’s just say there is more time spent on brawls than in play!
The match ended with a clear victory by the Bianchi over the Rossi with 3 “caccie” to 0. And the (almost) peaceful invasion of the winning team’s fans who couldn’t wait to celebrate their heroes.
So, even though it’s on the bloody side, the match is worth watching at least once to take in the 16th-century Florentine atmosphere. If you find yourself in Florence at this time of year and are curious about the event, I suggest buying tickets well in advance since they sell out almost right away!
Semifinal 1: Bianchi – Rossi 3-0
Semifinal 2: Azzurri -Verdi 8-0