Florence Fight Club

Recently, I had the opportunity to return to Italy with my family to meet up with my rockstar sister as she was finishing her Vatican Internship and her semester abroad in Rome (Alas, I have officially come to the unfortunate conclusion that both of my younger sisters are cooler than me). Over my 12 day excursion throughout Italy, we experienced many things. We toured Rome, and Florence; my old stomping grounds from the study abroad days. We visited with family in my grandfather’s home town, Tagliacozzo, Abruzzo. I took a quick dip in the Mediterranean. We met some of my mother’s family for the first time in Chiaravalle Centrale, Calabria and toured her town, eventually driving through the countryside to see the house she grew up in. I can, without a doubt, mark this family vacation as a life changing experience. It was probably the best family vacation I have had the luxury of attending.

While I was in Rome, my beloved Roma squandered their chances at winning the Scudetto by losing to Catania Calcio 4-1 and eventually to Juventus 1-0, the future winners of this past years tournament. Sure that was a little depressing; I was only looking forward to the opportunity of life time filled with running through the streets with people as crazed as I am about I Lupi and literally doing as the Romans do. As we all know, that did not happen and I was “forced” to visit Florence instead with my family, tail between my legs, defeated (truthfully, I love florence and wanted to go as the plans were to meet up with a younger cousin who also was finishing her semester abroad there).

Florence is known for a few things; the most notable being: Steak, Il Duomo, the Davide, and the Ponte Vecchio, bartering for leather at San Lorenzo maret and of course Calcio (Soccer). On our way to the famed San Lorenzo market, there seemed to be a demonstration taking place near the Duomo that diverted us off the usual path to the market.

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I assumed that it was a traditional protest about work and politics because they were tired of working too hard or something erroneous like that (keep in mind that most, not all, Italians choose to follow the Spanish siesta work ethic). We stopped, laughed at the funny clothes they were wearing and walked off, thinking nothing of it as the supposed demonstration was coming to an end. A few days later, I would found out by watching the following documentary that that was a practice parade for the best kept secret in Florence that’s not a secret bakery: Calcio Storico Fiorentino (Florence Fight Club – English idiom)

What is it?

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The match lasts 50 minutes and are played on a sand field, 100 yards long by 50 yards wide. A white line divides the field in two identical squares, and a goal net runs the width of each end.

Each team had 27 players with no expected substitutes. As for the positions, there are: four Datori Indietro (goalkeepers), 3 Datori Innanzi (fullbacks), 5 Sconciatori (halfbacks), 15 Innanzi o Corridori (forwards). The Capitan and Alfiere (flagbear’s) tent sits in the center of the goal net. They don’t actively participate in the game, but can referee and organize the game.

The Giudice Arbitro and 6 Segnalinee referee the match, in collaboration with the Giudice Commissario, who remains off the field. Overlooking the game is the Maestro di Campo. He makes sure the runs smoothly, stepping in the reestablish order and maintain discipline in case of a fight on field.He is basically the “center ref”

The game beings when the “Pallaio” throws the ball to the center line, followed by the firing of a small cannon, announcing the beginning of the conflict…er I mean match.

From this moment on, the players try (by any means neccessary) to get the ball into the opponents goal. The teams change sides with every point scored.

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Every June, there is a three day tournament held between four of the boroughs of Florence, the winner claiming rights to La Chianina (the white vealed calf); which is used to make the famous bistecca alla fiorentina.

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Fun fact: it is not uncommon to see players and fans start fighting due to rivalry over land, women, who called their mother what name or child what name. Anything goes. I guess the best comparison would be an MTV Celebrity death match without any actual deaths (hopefully) between Vinnie Jones the footballer, not actor (same guy different era, although I’m terrified of both), Georges St.-Pierre and Sébastien Chabal.

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How did it start?

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Calcio storico fiorentino is known as one of the oldest forms of modern soccer and rugby. Two teams of even numbers played on a field. History shows that it was a free flowing game played on a dirt field with a feather filled ball. The sport eventually became so popular in Florence, that people would even play the game on the ice when the famed Arno river froze over.

Originally thought to have started with the Romans, with the gladiators using the brutal sport to warm up and train for the competitions in the Coliseum. However, the sport has been mentioned in Homeric poems, as will as believed to have been introduced to Fiorenza (historic Florence) during 59 AD by retired Roman warriors and their families.

This game is pure chaos as you can see by the trailers and documentaries many people have created (its funny to think that there are actually new rules instituted to “prevent” gruesome injuries and even death). I don’t know about you but, I want in. This is a savage game for savage people. Lets start now.

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