Calcio Fiorentino is a violent, Renaissance-era, rugbylike forerunner to soccer played the thrid week in June on Piazza Santa Croce
On the thrid week in June, Piazza Santa Croce is packed with dirt and transformed into a playing pitch for the misleadingly quaintly named calcio storico ("historic soccer")—a.k.a. calcio in costume ("soccer in costume").
Once of the earliest forms of modern "football" played in Europe, this Calcio Fiorentino might actually be a revival or a variation on the Roman game of harpastum, and has been played in Piazza Santa Croce since the 16th cenutry (the first "rules"—such as they were—were written down in 1580s).
This violent Renaissance version of soccer pits the city's historic neighborhoods against once another in what looks (to an outsider) like a no-holds-barred, frequently bloody match that seems as much rugby (and wrestling, and American football, and MMA, and flat-out street brawling) as it does anything resembling modern "soccer."
There are 27 men to a side and a lot of kicking, hitting, and throwing that lasts for 50 brutal minutes (also, sometimes there is a ball involved). Every time a caccia is scored in the narrow goal the teams switch sides. If you miss an attempted goal, the other team gets half a caccia.
The winning team—sweaty, bloody, and exhaisted—gets a painted standard of the Madonna and a white cow.
The four teams and their city districts are:
- Azzurri ("Blues"; Santa Croce)
- Rossi ("Reds"; Santa Maria Novella)
- Bianchi ("Whites"; Santo Spirito)
- Verdi ("Greens"; San Giovanni )
Below is a video of the 2011 contest.