Calcio Fiorentino – The Ultimate Manly Sport

Imagine a sport that’s a mix between soccer and rugby, with absolutely no rules whatsoever. Man, that’s got to be brutal! And that’s exactly what Calcio Fiorentino is. It’s the ultimate sport to prove your strength, power and courage.

The game originated in Italy during the 16th century in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Florence. The words Calcio Fiorentino can be loosely translated as the Florence Kick. True to its name, the game was devised by four of Florence’s most prominent noble families. Their intention was simple, to be able to show off their physical prowess to their enemies. In those days, spectators of the game were limited only to the ruling class.

Photo © Lorenzo Noccioli

Today, Calcio Fiorentino is still played at an annual event at the Piazza St Croce, in the heart of Florence city. Unlike the earlier times, people from all walks of life are invited to watch, and needless to say, the game is hugely popular. I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch grown men wrestle it out over a ball, in a sport where the only rule is there are no rules.

Photo © Lorenzo Noccioli

Even so, there is a certain structure to Calcio Fiorentino. Two teams are formed with 27 players each. The sport is played on a field with goals at either end. The field is actually a sand pit, so the goals are usually as wide as the field. The primary objective is to score more points than the opposite team, by netting the ball into the goal. Players are free to kick, carry, or throw the ball in any direction they please, as long as they’re scoring the points. Head butting, punching, elbowing, and even choking are considered fair and normal ways to play. The only practice that constitutes a foul is kicking someone in the head.

Photo © Lorenzo Noccioli

The game has no breaks, time outs or substitutions. Once on the field, all the players need to battle it out to the finish which is 50 long and excruciating minutes later. It’s not at all surprising that no less than eight referees are required to regulate the game and the players. Imagine 54 men in a sand pit, free to do what they please just to get a ball into a net. Now, that’s going to be very, very far from pretty. Calcio Fiorentino has become popular not just locally, but is also a major attraction for tourists. However, taking into account the number of injuries the players suffer, only three matches are played every year, between four teams – the Santa Croce in blue, the Santa Maria Novella in red, the Santo Spirito in white and the San Giovanni in green.


We’ve talked about some pretty gruesome sports here on OC (Botaoshi, Savika, Kirkpinar, etc.), but Calcio Fiorentino definitely the title of the ultimate manly sport.