Every June, Florence engages in a city-wide historic soccer (calcio storico) tournament, which rivals even the pomp and ceremony of Siena’s Palio, but this year’s tournament has been called off due to increasing violence surrounding the event. The historic game of calcio storico is a predecessor to modern soccer and combines elements of soccer, rugby, “Greco-Roman wrestling” and “bare-knuckle fighting.” Each of the city’s four quadrants field a team of 27 players, who parade through the city decked out in Renaissance finery before the games begin in the Piazza Santa Croce.
Once the whistle has been blown, however, no one stands on ceremony.
Players, still bedecked in color-coordinated jerkins and breeches, use all possible means to get the red and white ball over the wall at the opposite end of the piazza. In the meantime, individual brawls break out between members of opposing teams, which officials say has become excessive in recent years. In 2005, police opened probes into over 40 participants for violent behavior, and last year, over 50 players were taken to court after a serious scuffle at the beginning of the first match led to the tournament’s suspension. Officials hope that this year’s hiatus will give tempers time to cool, and the tournament is scheduled to return in 2008. — Cailin Birch