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Historic Florentine Soccer or WWE wrestling match?

Ok, it’s official, Calcio Storico is THE BEST thing Florence has ever done. I’ve been here since January and I have never had this much fun in this city. Let’s start from the beginning so you can get a good play-by-play of exactly how I felt this Saturday, June 15th:

Calcio Storico Field at piazza Santa Croce

The field with Basilica di Santa Croce behind it, not bad eh?

I’m headed to my first Calcio Storico (historic Florentine soccer)  match and I’m CRAZY excited. I never made it to a regular soccer game this past semester because of all my super cool traveling around Europe. So this is the best thing I could do next to that (not to mention I heard it’s awesome). Heading into this whole thing, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be watching old Italian guys play soccer like how they used to in the “olden days” – or so I told everyone who asked me what the hell it was.

So first I’m wandering around trying to find the entrance, because every Italian in Florence is trying to get into this game (in the middle of Piazza Santa Croce). And it’s a madhouse on the streets surrounding the square. I’ve got a nice cold Morretti beer and a bottle of water because its 600 million degrees (kind of an exaggeration – WHATEVER – it’s how I felt), and I’m like, “Ok, let’s just flash this fancy press pass I have and see if it lets me through an entrance…” Sure enough, I’m through in a minute. Then it’s time to find the bleachers for my team’s fans. (I’m rooting for the Rossi (reds) di Santa Maria Novella because I live in that district, near the train station.) No luck, because I only see red on the other side of this piazza and I’m most definitely NOT trying to cross all these mad soccer fans to get there. I figure I can blend in with all the white shirts of the Bianchi (whites) di Santo Spirito team fanatics. I’m a young American tourist who knows nothing about what’s going on, right? Well as it turns out, YEAH. I actually have no clue what is about to happen on this sand filled court.

I sit for a while in what seems like a sea of Italian guys not wearing shirts (some of this good, some of it bad…if you catch my drift). People start handing out white flags, everyone is chanting things my untrained Italian ear cannot understand, and the whole piazza is going crazy.

White team calcio storico supporters

Surrounded by a bunch of Santo Spirito (white team) fanatics

Then when you think things can’t get any crazier, or more unexpected, these men dressed as freakin’ JESTERS or something (I mean, who really knows?) come marching out onto this field holding flags, doing crazy tricks, and meanwhile little old me is over here in the stands thinking, “WHAT the hell? Am I at a joust in medieval times, or what?”

Flag men on the field at calcio storico Florence Italy

I found out later that these “jesters” were actually the Bandierai degli Uffizi, the official flag throwers of the city of Florence.

So then they march the players out, most of them shirtless and what I would call little frilly pants. So know I realize everyone is dressed up and I’m at medieval times on my 7th grade field trip Everyone goes crazy again, and I’m just waving my little white flag as if I understand what’s going on. Red, white and purple smoke bombs start going off at the front of the stands (yeah – cooool, but really the worst smell ever) and then it’s time for the game.

purple smoke bomb calcio storico

A hazy view of Santa Croce…

Here is exactly how my thoughts play out from this point on: I’m looking for the ball. My friend Emily turns to me with this look on her face like, “What is happening, what did you bring me to?” because we CAN’T find the ball. There is no ball. Do you know what I see? Some sort of wrestling/UFC fighting going on everywhere. I’m seriously thinking, “Is this fake? Is this real?” Who knows.

THIS SHIT IS REAL PEOPLE.

Everyone is killing each other on this field. I’m talking beating the crap out of each other. Oh, yeah, but don’t worry, there is a ball and some poor guy has it. So all the people punching and kicking each other to death are either this guy’s teammates trying to protect him and stop the other team from scoring, or the other team trying to make sure these men never see the light of day again.

So for about an hour-and-a-half, my friend and me, and everyone else in the stands, are watching these people real-life UFC fight on this field, and it’s fucking out of this world. Everyone is going wild, pointing to the right, pointing to the left, right, looking for the most insane fight and the hardest hit.

players at calcio storico

A very timid fight… trust me.

In the end, the white team won (my team guys! Or my fake team but, whatever, MY SIDE!). I finally found my way down to the field to interview some players after the game, but totally chickened out when I got down there and was immediately surrounded by absolute CHAOS. I’m talking I had 20 ambulances around me carrying players to the hospital, players being separated from each other by random citizens whilst screaming bloody murder, and the occasional red player being separated from a LIVID fan). So I quickly scampered out (sorry Whitney, I’m a coward) and quietly processed the whole situation on the walk home.

Calcio Storico Field after the game

A little after-game tranquility

I have to admit, although it was mind-blowing at first, Calcio Storico was without a doubt the best thing I’ve done in Florence. I seriously think I’m going to go to some UFC fights at home now and get in on this action. The whole atmosphere of a million Florentine fans around you, contrasted with the openness of the piazza was just absolutely insane. I mean they LIVE for this game and I LOVE it. So there you have it. If all this craziness sounds like a good time to you (I assure you, IT IS) then you most definitely have to make it to one of these games every June in Florence. There is still one game left for summer 2013: THE FINAL! On June 24th the Santo Spirito Whites are playing the Santa Croce blues!! If you want to go check out our post for tickets and more information. 

Catch ya on the flip side,

Nina

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