Bocce: The Game of Kings

May 5, 2008 / Local Interest
S. Agata dei Goti
In the tiny town of S. Agata dei Goti, bocce (pronounced BOH-chay) is my preferred spectator sport. Every afternoon, as the evenings become longer from early Spring to mid-Autumn, small groups gather at the covered outdoor alley on the edge of town to spend a few pleasant hours chiding each other and showing off their playing skills. Although the game might look deceptively easy, I have come to admire these men (aged 50 – 90), their various throwing techniques and the incredible accuracy they achieve.

A variation of the game played with flat stones was introduced to Italy by the Greeks in 800 B.C., probably not too far from here. The Romans took to it with a passion, introducing the concept of spherical balls (these in photo 2 are 2000 year old terracotta balls) carved from olive wood.

I love to watch as the men gather at the far end of the court after each round, arguing in dialect over whose boccia is closer to the pallino. After a heated discussion a tape measure (photo 1) inevitably appears and the most accurate shot is often only a matter of a few millimeters. Then, laughing, they all start another round . . .

Barbara Goldfield

by Barbara Goldfield

Owner of “Savour The Sannio”, www.savourthesannio.com, a travel consultancy for central and southern Italy.

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