Calcio match in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, in Florence. Painting by Jan Van der Straet.

Calcio storico fiorentino (also known as calcio in livrea or calcio in costume) is an early form of football that originated during the Middle Ages in Italy.[1] Once played, the sport is thought to have started in the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence. There it became known as the giuoco del calcio fiorentino ("Florentine kick game") or simply calcio, which is now also the name for association football in the Italian language. The game may have started as a revival of the Roman sport of harpastum.


Renaissance era

A calcio storico fiorentino game played at Piazza Santa Croce, Florence, Italy

Calcio was reserved for rich aristocrats who played every night between Epiphany and Lent.[2] Even popes, such as Clement VII, Leo XI and Urban VIII, played the sport in Vatican City. The games could get violent as teams vied to score goals. A variation of calcio storico fiorentino was most likely played in the 15th century as well, as a match was organized on the Arno River in 1490, notable as a day so cold the waters were completely frozen.[citation needed]

On another famous occasion, the city of Florence held a match on February 17, 1530, in defiance of the imperial troops sent by Charles V, as the city was under siege. The "noble game" was played in Piazza Santa Croce, only by distinguished soldiers, lords, noblemen and princes.[3]

A version of rules for the game were first recorded by Giovanni de' Bardi in the late 16th century.[4]

Modern revival

Match Between Azzurri and Rossi in 2008

Interest in calcio waned in the early 17th century. However, in 1930 it was reorganized as a game in the Kingdom of Italy,[2] under Benito Mussolini. It was widely played by amateurs in streets and squares using handmade balls of cloth or animal skin.[5] Today, three matches are played each year in Piazza Santa Croce, in Florence, in the third week of June. A team from each quartiere of the city is represented:

After playing each other in two opening games, the two overall winners go into the yearly final on June 24, the feast of San Giovanni (St. John), the Patron Saint of Florence. For decades, this violent match has resulted in severe injuries, including death. During the early decades, in order to encourage wagering and achieve a bettable winner, there were times when bulls would be ushered into the ring in hopes of adding confusion and inciting victory. The modern version of calcio has not changed much from its historical roots, which allow tactics such as head-butting, punching, elbowing, and choking. However, due to often fatal injuries, sucker punches and kicks to the head are currently banned.[2] It is also prohibited for more than one player to attack an opponent. Any violation leads to being expelled from the game.

The most successful team since 1979 is Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues) with over 20 tournament wins. Tournaments have been cancelled on several occasions due to violence or foul play. These incidents have led to major rule changes, such as ensuring players are born in Florence (or have been resident for at least ten years) and excluding players that have criminal convictions.

Winners by year
Year Winner
2023 Santa Maria Novella / Rossi (Reds)
2022 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
2021 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
2020 No tournament: COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
2019 Santa Maria Novella / Rossi (Reds)
2018 Santa Maria Novella / Rossi (Reds)
2017 Santo Spirito / Bianchi (Whites)
2016 Santo Spirito / Bianchi (Whites)
2015 Santo Spirito / Bianchi (Whites)
2014 Cancelled after foul play in semifinal
2013 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
2012 Santa Croce / Bianchi (Whites)
2011 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
2010 Multiple team forfeitures
2009 No winner declared
2008 Santa Maria Novella / Rossi (Reds)
2007 Suspended due to crowd security concerns
2006 Tournament cancelled: uncontrolled brawl
2005 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
2004 Santa Maria Novella / Rossi (Reds)
2003 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
2002 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
2001 No winner declared
2000 No winner declared
1999 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
1998 Santa Maria Novella / Rossi (Reds)
1997 No winner declared
1996 San Giovanni / Verdi (Greens)
1995 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
1994 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
1993 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
1992 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
1991 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
1990 No winner declared
1989 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
1988 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
1987 Tournament suspended: safety concerns
1986 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
1985 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
1984 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
1983 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
1982 Tournament cancelled: uncontrolled brawl
1981 Santo Spirito / Bianchi (Whites)
1980 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)
1979 Santa Croce / Azzurri (Blues)


This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please help improve this article by introducing citations to additional sources.Find sources: "Calcio storico fiorentino" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (March 2017)
This article or section appears to contradict itself on the sequence on the start of the game. Please see the talk page for more information. (March 2017)
Calcio storico fiorentino match in Florence, Italy

Matches last 50 minutes and are played on a field covered in sand, twice as long as it is wide (approximately 100 m × 50 m or 109 by 55 yards). A white line divides the field into two identical squares, and a goal net runs the width of each end.

Each team has 27 players and no substitutions are allowed for injured or expelled players. The teams are made up of four datori indietro (goalkeepers), three datori innanzi (fullbacks), five sconciatori (halfbacks) and 15 innanzi or corridori (forwards). The captain and standard bearer's tent sits at the center of the goal net. They do not actively participate in the game, but can organize their teams and occasionally act as caccas (referees), mainly to calm down their players or to stop fights.

The referee and the six linesmen officiate the match in collaboration with the judge commissioner, who remains off the field. The referee, above everyone else, is the master of the field, and is responsible for making sure the game runs smoothly, stepping into the field only to maintain discipline and reestablish order when fights occur.

Calcio Storico Parade in 2008

Shots from a small cannon or colubrine announces the beginning of the event. The game starts when the pallaio[clarification needed] throws and kicks the ball toward the center line, then at the first whistle as the ball first rests on field, 15 forwards or corridori, begin fighting in a wild mixed martial arts match- punching, kicking, tripping, hacking, tackling, and wrestling with each other in an effort designed to tire opponents' defenses, but which often descends into an all-out brawl. They try to pin and force into submission as many players possible. Once there are enough incapacitated players, the other teammates come and swoop up the ball and head to the goal.

From this moment on, the players try by any means necessary to get the ball into the opponents' goal, also called "caccia". The teams change sides with every caccia or goal scored. It is important to shoot with precision, because every time a player throws or kicks the ball above the net, the opposing team is awarded with a half caccia. The game ends after 50 minutes and the team which scored the most cacce wins.

Along with the palio[clarification needed], the winning team used to receive a Chianina, a type of pure-bred cow. However, this has been reduced to a free dinner for the winning team; the players earn no other compensation.[6]

In popular culture

The comic book series Bitch Planet includes an event titled "Duemila" or "Megaton"; in issue #4 the event is described: "Megaton is one of many modern descendants of calcio fiorentino, a 16th century Italian sport... Teams may have any number of players, but their combined weight can be no more than 2,000 lb [910 kg]!".[7]

In the 2017 film Lost In Florence, Brett Dalton plays a former college football star who travels to Italy and becomes involved in playing calcio storico fiorentino.

In episode 4, "Judgement Day" of the TV series, Medici: Masters of Florence, the main characters engage in a game of calcio storico fiorentino in the main square of Florence during a flashback sequence.

In the sixth episode from the second season of Syfy Channel's HAPPY! (titled "Pervapalooza"), the demon Orcus references calcio storico fiorentino while trapped inside Blue Scaramucci's body. The demon says that hockey seems like foxy boxing compared to calcio storico fiorentino.

The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel's novel about Thomas Cromwell, contains a description of an early 16th-century game of calcio storico fiorentino, emphasising its brutality.[8]

Episode 1 of the 2020 Netflix series Home Game is dedicated to calcio storico fiorentino, featuring behind-the-scenes player vignettes contemporary to the 2019 Reds-versus-Whites final match. In addition to providing historical information, the episode depicts interviews with players from both teams.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Calcio storico fiorentino ieri e oggi by L.Artusi, S. Gabbrielli, SP 44. 1989
  2. ^ a b c Halpern, J. Balls and Blood, Sports Illustrated. Vol 109, No. 4: August 4, 2008, p. 42.
  3. ^ Monaco, Franco (1967). What's on in Italian Folklore. Automobile club d'Italia L'editrice dell'automobile. p. 26.
  4. ^ "Calcio Storico Fiorentino". Retrieved 2020-09-14.
  5. ^ Artusi, Luciano (2016). "Chapter 4: The Ancient Game". Calcio Fiorentino. History, art and memoirs of the historical game. From its origins to the present day. Scribo Edizioni. p. 31. ISBN 9788894182927.
  6. ^ Borden, Sam (2015-07-01). "A Most Dangerous Game". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-07-01.
  7. ^ DeConnick, Kelly Sue; De Landro, Valentine (April 2015). Bitch Planet (Issue 4 ed.). Berkeley: Image Comics, Inc. pp. 14–15.
  8. ^ Pearson, Allison (5 March 2020). "The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel, review: a little baggy, but still brilliant". The Telegraph. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  9. ^ Hall, Daniel R - Home Game (Series)