Calcio Storico: Rugby, Wrestling, or None of the Above?

I’m going to start by saying that this Wikipedia page will explain this game much better than I can. What I can say, though, is that the actual experience is not what you would expect after reading the Wikipedia page.  [The pre-match festivities resulted in what felt like thousands of people on the playing field marching, dancing, and throwing flags]

Match start time

Expectation: The tickets we bought said 5pm, so Sean and I showed up at 4:45 like any tourist would do.

Reality: The stadium was empty. Around 5:30, a couple of people in funny costumes walked out and we were sure that marked the start. It did mark the start…of the parade…which lasted an hour. At 6:30, the match finally began.

[One punch about to be thrown, two guys who appear to be hugging, and no sight of the ball…pretty normal at this game]

“Kick game”

Expectation: Calcio Storico translates to historic kick game, so we were expecting a soccer-like event. Granted, we were told there were no rules so even expected a hand ball every so often.

Reality: I’m not sure if there was any foot-ball contact in the entire game. It was much more like rugby, mixed with street fighting. The first thirteen minutes consisted of absolutely no movement toward scoring – instead, there was punching, tackling, pinning people down, and even the need for a stretcher.

27 people on each side:

Expectation: Wow, crowded. It must be insane with 54 people all running around on the same field.

Reality: Once someone is injured or expelled from the game, they cannot be replaced, so this number decreases drastically throughout the game. Also, I would say only about ten people on either side are actively playing. The rest are either a) standing in a line in the center that sort of serves as a border, ready to fight if need be, or b) pinning someone down or being pinned down themselves. Sean and I still haven’t figured out the purpose of this, but I suppose it does clear the playing field.

[The number of players on the field dwindled down from 54 to no more than 40 throughout the match]


Expectation: There are meant to be three goalies on each side, which makes sense since the goal takes up the entirety of each end. There must be a ton of shots on goal, hence the need for three goalies.

Reality: The goal is an odd thing. It looks like a narrow soccer goal, but you can’t just hit the net or the wall to score; instead, the ball needs to go behind the wall and there is only a small slit to get it in there. Almost everyone who got a “shot” was close enough to actually score, and there weren’t many shots. I also don’t think any of the goalies were actually guarding the goal.

Despite my confusion on all of the above, this was actually one of the best sporting events I’ve ever been to. Once it picked up, about twenty minutes in, it was non-stop action. These were my favorite parts:

[A festive celebration for Team Rossi after scoring a goal]

Half points:

If a team attempts to score but sends to ball over the goal instead of into the goal, the other team is awarded half a point. So basically, not only do you score when you score, but you score when the other team fails to do so. This should definitely be used in more sports.


Sports are so regulated these days, which makes perfect sense given the health issues involved with athletic injuries. However, it was a crazy change to watch people just go at it with a team sport. It was quite comedic and provided for great entertainment, but I do feel a bit of strain on my moral compass for admitting this. Still conflicted on this one.


Given the line of defenders in the center of the field, and the lack of active players (those not pinned down or in a fight), there was not much scoring in this game – not even many attempts. This meant that when a breakaway actually happened and someone was heading to the goal it was the most exciting thing ever. It also meant a huge gamble as to the outcome – they would either get absolutely decked at some point, would score for their own team, or would half score for theirs. Great entertainment all around.

[Sean being an eager supporter – purple represents Florence so our side had purple and red flags]

This experience sparked my interest in attending cultural events all over the world. It’ll take some strategic planning, but I think it would be an amazing thing to write about. This is going to take much research though considering the only event I can think of off the top of my head is the running of the bulls!


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