Italian for “Historical Football”, Calcio Storico is a game invented by 16th-century Florentines and as the name suggests, it’s an early form of Italy’s favourite sport.
The violent game is a combination of soccer, rugby and wrestling and was originally played by aristocrats.
Though it’s not played as an official sport in modern Italy, a re-enactment is held each year.
The main event takes place on June 24, the feast day of Florence's patron saint, John the Baptist.
Four teams representing Florence’s historic districts play against each other, first in two semi-finals and then the final match to determine the winner.
Piazza Santa Croce, located directly in front of the famous Santa Croce church, is covered in a layer of dirt and evolves into an ancient arena on the day.
Locals participate in a parade in historical attire, starting in Piazza Santa Maria Novella and heading through the city’s centre on their way to Piazza Santa Croce.
Players also march in the medieval pageant, as a pre-match ritual.
The four districts represented are Santa Croce (blue), Santa Maria Novella (red), Santo Spirito (white), and San Giovanni (green).
Two teams of 27 players take part in 50-minute matches.
The final takes place at around 5:00 pm, and the whole city turns out to watch it.
The match is played on a sand field, which is divided down the middle into two squares, with goal nets at each end.
The aim of the game is to gain possession of the ball and kick it into the goal net.
Players can use hands and feet and tactics such as tripping and tackling are also allowed, though certain rules aim to keep injuries to a minimum in modern times.
For example, while many fighting techniques including martial arts are allowed, it’s prohibited for more than one player to attack a single opponent at once.
No substitutions are allowed, even if there are injuries.
It’s safe to say that injuries are common in the sport, and many players have been hospitalised over the years.
In 2007, local authorities banned the match for a year following a brawl involving 50 or so players.
After that, new rules banned convicted criminals from playing.
Then in 2014, the rules regarding participation in the tournament were changed again, so that only people born in Florence or who have lived in the area for at least ten years can participate.
That hasn’t stopped June 24 from being one of the most anticipated days on the calendars of Florentines, and locals and tourists alike get around the aggressive game.
At the end of the day, people flock to the banks of the Arno to watch a spectacular fireworks display over the water and celebrate the victors.