One of the traditions in Florence that made the biggest impression on me when I moved here ten years ago was definitely Historic Florentine Soccer.
This age-old tournament, which Florentines take very seriously, takes place in the Piazza di Santa Croce in June in the days before June 24th, when we celebrate Saint John, the city’s patron saint and when the final is played.
Florence’s four historic districts fight it out for the coveted prize, a white Chianina calf: The Whites (Bianchi) of “Santo Spirito” (who won last year after 31 years of hard luck!), the Reds (Rossi) of “Santa Maria Novella”, the Blues (Azzurri) of “Santa Croce” and the Greens (Verdi) of “San Giovanni”.
The entire tournament is a reenactment of a specific event in Florence’s history. In February, 1530 the city was under siege for many months by Charles V’s Imperial troops. The people organized a game of soccer to give the impression that they weren’t at all bothered by the emperor’s army.
Of course, now it has become almost exclusively a competition between Florence’s factions … and not always all that friendly!
Before the start of each game (three in total, two elimination rounds, and a final), there is a fabulous historical parade in costume from Piazza Santa Maria Novella to Piazza Santa Croce, of course.
I suggest watching the start of the parade from our hotel’s magnificent rooftop terrace that looks right onto the square!
I still don’t quite get exactly how the game works…… all I know for sure is that it is played on a field covered with sand and that there are two teams of 27 “kickers” who must get the ball to the end of the other team’s field (any means is allowed … even those verging on the illegal …) where a net is put up , marking a “catch”, what we’d call a goal in modern football.
I’m sure I’ll get a clearer idea of it all after watching my first game next June!
31/03/2013 Drawing lots for the two semi-finals:
June 15, Whites vs Reds
June 16 Blues vs Greens
For info: http://www.calciostoricofiorentino.it/
Photo credit: Giuseppe Sabella