An International Game with Ancient Roots:
If you’re thinking that, with all the hype over the World Cup, soccer must be the most played ball game in the world, guess again! Bocce is the number one ball game, played in more countries than soccer, and has a long and illustrious history.
No one really knows where or when it all originated, but there is evidence that games like bocce were played as early as 5000 BC in Egypt, and 300 BC in Greece.
The earliest form of the game we now call bocce is traced to the Italian Alps about 2,000 years ago, and it involved tossing stones, with the goal of getting as close to a smaller object stone as possible.
There have been accounts of this game being a popular pastime of the Roman soldiers taking breaks between battles in the Punic Wars of 264 BC, at times using coconuts brought back from Africa. Even the Emperor Augustus was known to partake in a friendly game. Because of the Romans, bocce spread through out the Roman Empire.
The name ‘bocce’ developed around the time of the Middle Ages, when vulgar Latin became the common language, and the word “bottia”
- meaning ball - became the Italian word boccia or Bocce, as the game came to be known. Interestingly, it was the Classic Latin word “boulles”, which evolved into the English word “bowls”, referring to the similar game played in England.
Bocce has known its ups and downs throughout the centuries. At one point, it has become so popular that it was outlawed in several kingdoms, as it was felt to be interfering with affairs of state - too many politicians were taking bocce breaks!
In 1576, the Republic of Venice publicly condemned it, and thereafter those who disobeyed were punished with fines and imprisonment. Eventually, the game became an organized sport with France the first to start, followed closely by Italy, specifically northern Italy (Friuli!!!). The first organized Italian League was formed in Piedmont in 1947; world championships are held every year.
Here at the Famee Furlane, we are doing our bit to contribute to the ongoing popularity of the game. The Ladies’ and Men’s Bocciofila Clubs are active in tournaments within the organization and with clubs throughout the Toronto area.
Watching them play gives you a sense that time has stopped for a while, and nothing else exists except for what’s happening in the bocce lanes. Maybe there’s not enough of that these days, with our hectic schedules and the push to ‘multitask’ to death.
It’s also a way to get off the couch, away from the TV and actually socialize with others in a friendly, at times competitive, manner.
So next time you’re thinking of sitting down in front of the boob
tube, think, I could be playing Bocce instead!