A sporting event where anything goes, the Calcio Storico Fiorentino is a hot-blooded affair in the city of Florence, dating back to the 16th century.
We’ve heard of men fighting like animals, but fighting for one is a different matter. At the Calcio Storico Fiorentino you can witness an ancient sporting game where locals shed blood, sweat, and tears, all for … a cow.
Forget boxing, wrestling and cage-fighting, the Calcio Storico Fiorentino is one brutal sport. It’s an ancient form of football that dates back to the 16th century when the rules were first written. Not that you’d think it when watching. Back in Roman times, a ball game of a similar kind was played to train warriors for combat.
Teams of 27 from each four Florence districts take to the sand-covered playing field in two semi-final matches usually the weekend before the final, which takes place on 24th June. They battle it out for 50 intense minutes with no substitutions or stoppages. And by battle, we mean headbutting, choking, punching, and elbowing. Practically anything goes, although kicks to the head are thankfully not permitted. But don’t worry, there is a referee, six linesmen, and an off-field judge to keep things (relatively) under control. And when that doesn’t work, police are on hand to step in, reminding players of the supposed aim of the game.
But how do you win? The rules are simple. Players fight for possession of the ball before trying to score by throwing or kicking it over a wooden fence at the opposing end of the field. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins. And what do they win? A cow obviously. This isn’t an ordinary cow either; it’s a Chianina cow – an Italian breed that’s used to make a true Florentine specialty, bistecca alla Fiorentina.
Before the games begin, the Calcio Storico Fiorentino has a rather extravagant build-up. Men are dressed in traditional ancient attire, trumpets blare out around the field of play and somewhat of a pre-match ceremony takes place. Locals pass through the cobbled streets sporting their district’s colors, before heading for the battlefield to cheer their team on.
Afterwards, we recommend bringing the battlefield to the restaurant to see what all the fuss is about. After all, that must be one bloody good steak.