Italy - In 16th century Italy, Italians played a sport called Calcio Fiorentino.
It is an extremely violent game, and combines elements of soccer, rugby and
bare-knuckle fighting into one brutal and bloody event. Some history books say
it was played by rich aristocrats, and sometimes even Popes, Clement VII, Leo
XI and Urban VIII were said to be particularly fond of the game and often
joined in. But I find that hard to believe
A Little Calcio Fiorentino Action
reason I find it hard to believe is that rich aristocrats and Popes didn’t even
dress themselves in those days, so it’s hard to imagine them jumping into the
middle of such a bloody and brutal sport. And by the time the Popes were
elected Pope, they were old and kind of on the chubby side and well, you look
at the photos and tell me if you think this is a sport for chubby, old men.
truth is Calcio Fiorentino is a blood sport and because it is such a brutal
game, the Italians stopped playing it sometime around the 17th century. But then,
in 1930, a group of Florentines decided to revive it.
Now, Now Boys, Let's Play Nice
Calcio Fiorentino, or calcio storico (historic football), is played on a sand
field that is twice as long as it is wide. At each end, there is a net goal that
stretches the width of the field.
are 27 men from each team, and they are all on the field at the same time. That
means there are 54 men knocking the snot out of each other for 50 full minutes
straight, which is how long the game is. When the 50 minutes of insane
brutality are over, whoever scored the most points wins.
A New Defense Tactic
score a goal, which is called a caccia, players have to put the ball into the
opponents’ net. Easier said than done as all the while you are trying to put
the ball in the other teams net, they are hard at work beating the crap out of
you. And don’t take a shot for the goal unless you know you are going to make
it because if you miss, the other team gets half a caccia.
are rule, of course. Kicking, punching, head-butting and choking are all
allowed, but you’ll get booted out of the game if you are caught throwing a
sucker punch or kicking an opponent in the head. Biting opponent’s ears off is
not encouraged either, nor is ganging up on one player.
The Kick in the Shin Maneuver
there are referees on the field, the guys in the spiffy red and white
pantaloons, but they only get involved if a fight or brawl breaks out. While
you can smash the bejeebers out of your opponent when you are trying to score a
caccia, you can’t just beat them into the ground and continue to do so without
a referee coming over and chastising you. After all, the object of the game is
to put the ball in the net, not kill the people you’re playing against.
no way of telling if those rules always applied, especially back in the day
when the Greeks ran things. They played a version of this game that they called
Sfermomachia. The game was later adopted by the Roman army and transformed into
a type of warrior training. The Romans called it Harpastum, which in Latin
literally means to rip off – like rip off your head.
This Might Work
Romans loved the continuous body-to-body, head to head combat for possession of
the ball, it brought out their inner gladiator and it was through their love of
the game that it spread throughout the Roman Empire.
all we know the Romans could have been playing calcio Fiorentino back in 59
A.D. when they founded the city of Fiorenza, now known as Florence. Anything is possible. One thing we do know is
that by the second half of the 5th century, calcio was so popular among young
Florentines that they often played it in the streets and squares of the city.
And one winter, back in 1490 when the Arno River was completely frozen over,
they marked off a field and played a few games on the ice.
Now, Now Boys, Choking is Against the Rules
game is now played in Florence as a tournament during the 3rd week of June.
Florence is divided into quadrants and each quadrant provides one team to play.
After two opening games, the two remaining teams play in the final. The
championship game is played on June 24th, which is San Giovanni (St. John)’s
Day, who happens to be the Patron Saint of Florence.
team fights its hardest to win the grand prize, a cow! Not just any cow, but a
Chianina cow which is the largest cattle breed in the world, and also one of
the oldest in existence. Their meat is delicious and the best cut is used for
bistecca alla Fiorentina, a massive T-bone steak.
Where Do You Think You're Going?
better way to celebrate a win than to fire up the grill and share a steak
dinner with your teammates and their families.Laugh if you want, but the Italians know this: you can’t eat a shiny
the way, if you are interested, you can watch full Calcio Fiorentino matches on
YouTube. Check it out.
CHIAVARI, Italy - The daily produce market in
Chiavari’s Piazza Manzini, is a joy to see and a joy to shop in.It continues a long tradition of selling food
in open-air food markets that dates back to the days of the Romans, and even
Chiavari Market in Piazza Manzini
There isn’t a lot of difference between the markets
in early Rome and the Chiavari fruit and vegetable market today. Vendors still
have to have a license to sell, although licenses today are not engraved on a
piece of marble and publically displayed as they were in early Rome.
Women still do most of the shopping, that has not
changed, but in ancient Rome rich women would often send their slaves to do
A Little Meat Market on Wheels
Fast food that could be eaten straight away was also
a common sight in Rome. Bread, hot sausages, pastries, and chickpeas were perfect
for busy Romans to eat on the street or take home. While we still buy bread and
pastries from specialty bakeries, other ready-to-eat food like cheese and
salami, roasted chickens and seafood salad are sold in the market from movable
food trucks that travel from town to town not just in Liguria but throughout
Italy. The Romans would have been impressed.
Just as the Roman government set weights and measures
around the city and employed inspectors to protect buyers from being swindled, today’s
street markets are also controlled by local authorities.
Fennel and Cabbage and Onions, Oh My!
Suspicious upper class Romans thought the vendors
were deceitful and always questioned the quality of the food being sold. Some
even went so far as to accuse vendors who sold prepared foods of selling human
flesh in place of pork in some of their cooked dishes. It was generally
believed that human and pig flesh taste and smell remarkably similar, and unsuspecting
customers were not able to tell the difference. That accusation was never
proven, nor was the question as to where they would have gotten hold of human
flesh, but nonetheless it did create a buzz in Old Rome for a while.
A fifth-century AD author also claimed that some vendors
displayed food items such as eggs and onions floating in glass bowls of water
so that they looked larger than their actual size. It sounds rather silly even
for those times, and mostly likely is not even true since food back then, just
as it is now, is sold by weight.
A Farmer Selling Her Straight From the Garden Produce and Other Stuff
Most people in the Roman world were farmers. They
grew wheat and barley, olives, grapes, apples, onions and celery and other
vegetables. Unlike our markets today, which rely on a central distribution
center for their produce, most of the vendors in Roman times sold what they grew.And they paid taxes, as farmers do today except Roman farmers paid their
taxes partly in money and partly in food.
The markets of early Rome and those today are more
alike than they are different. However, one of the biggest differences between
the Roman vendors and the vendors in Chiavari, is that the Roman vendors made a
lot of noise. They would hoot and holler and call out to passersby to come and
look at the beautiful fruits and vegetables they had for sale.
Beautiful Produce Worth Shouting About
I think there are some open-air markets here in Italy
where they still hoot and holler, but I’ve never seen it. I remember the Italian
market on 9th Street in Philadelphia as being rather raucous, but the markets
in Milan and other towns in Lombardy as well as here in Liguria are
Another similarity is that street vendors in the
Roman markets, sold produce and food at relatively low prices, but wealthy
shoppers, who wanted to impress their dinner guests, could visit the macellum, Rome’s luxury food market. At
the macellum large fish were
auctioned off to the highest bidder, which often resulted in the customer
paying incredibly high prices. It brings to mind the fruit and vegetable stand
in Genoa Nervi we used to call Tiffany’s because of their high prices, and also
Pecks in Via Spadari in Milan, whose prices are so high they don’t even post
them on their on-line store.
Even Onions Can Be a Thing of Beauty
But unlike today, if the Romans hadn’t brought
enough money to pay for their purchases, bankers were always on hand and more
than happy to lend money to anyone who could not cover the costs of their
extravagant shopping spree. The imperial biographer Suetonius records the
disgust of Emperor Tiberius that three red mullets sold for
30,000 sesterces – more than 30 times the annual wage of a Roman
Other Roman delicacies available from that luxury
market included songbirds, snails and dormice, a dormouse being a tiny creature
that weighs at most 180 grams or 6.3 ounces, and sleeps six months out of
Errr, Excuse Me, Do You Deliver?
Perhaps the biggest difference between then and now
is that in ancient Rome vendors would often go directly to the homes of the
wealthy. The Roman poet Ovid complained that the visits by the vendors were a
nuisance for lovers since they always seem to knock at the door when their
mistresses were in a buying mood. To add insult to injury, the vendors would
look to the lovers to pay the bill, and if they didn’t have enough cash, no
problem, they would take a note of credit. But it wasn’t always about the
money, there was also the fear that the mistress would find the vendor more
attractive and send the lover on his way.
While it was a different time, and a different place,
it’s surprising how many traditions have survived the centuries. Since that
time both Italy and Sicily have been invaded, and dominated, by so many who have
left their mark on this country, but the truth is they were never able to
change the heart and soul of what it means to be Italian. That always seems to
CHIAVARI, Italy –
For a town that’s been around since 262 B.C., Santa Margherita Ligure is in
pretty good shape.In fact you might say
that Santa, which is what locals call it, looks better today than it ever
Santa Margherita Ligure
I’ve been waiting to
take photos of Santa Margherita, but not the usual kind of photos full of
sunshine and happy faces, I wanted photographs of Santa taken in a different
light. But since this has been a summer of sunshine, it took until the middle
of last week to get the right kind of day. No sun in the sky? It’s all cloudy
and grey? Yippee! I was off to the train station for the ten-minute ride to
Pretty, Even on a Cloudy Day
When I got there
it was cloudier and a lot darker than it had been in Chiavari, but I wasn’t too
worried. Weather here in Liguria has a multiple personality disorder. One
minute it’s sunny, next minute it’s not, and strangely enough the weather is
different from town to town even though the towns are only 10-15 minutes apart.
And forget about the weather reports, they can’t keep up with what’s going on
around here either.
At any rate I decided
to wait and see if it would clear up a little, and it did. The really dark
clouds passed and the sky was a beautiful shade of grey.
Castle of Santa Margherita (Photo: Wikipedia)
The first photo I wanted
to take was of the town castle, the one that protected Santa from the fierce
pirate raids that plagued the entire Mediterranean coast during the 1500’s. But
from street level the best shot I could get was of the entrance to the town’s
public toilet, which is built into the same stone wall that supports the castle.
That would never do, so I downloaded the castle photo from Wikipedia.
was constructed in 1550 at the foot of the hill where the beautiful Villa
Durazzo is located. The villa was built the same year by the Doge of Genoa, and
backed by a resolution of the Senate of the Republic of Genoa, which in plain
talk means it was paid for with public money.
Local Farmers Selling Freshly Picked Produce
course they really did need a castle/fort to defend against frequent pirate
raids, but it might have been better if they built it closer to the residential
part of town, but who am I to question the Senate of the Republic of Genoa.
neighbors along the Ligurian coast, Santa was often attackedby the fierce Turkish pirate Dragut Rais. There
are no records of how many Sammargheritesi Dragut and his men carried away and
sold in the North African slave markets, but by all accounts it was a
considerable number. In a way being shipped off to North Africa was probably
the best outcome for a bad situation because the people who were not chosen to
be sold as slaves by the pirates usually ended up having their heads chopped
My Favorite Bar in Santa
But that was then,
and this is now, and today Santa is a popular tourist destination. The day I
was here there were a few tour groups in town. One of the stories I’m sure they were told is
how Santa Margherita got its name.
It sort of started
back in the 1700’s when Santa Margherita was not a town, but two small and
separate fishing villages called Pescino and Corte. They were under the protection
and jurisdiction of the Capitanato of Rapallo, which was a larger, more
established town with an organized government. After about 100 years had
passed, the two little villages gained their independence from Rapallo and
lived happily on their own. But not for long because in1805 Napoleon Bonaparte was
crowned King of Italy in Milan.
Watching the Locals Watch the Tourists
One of the first
things Napoleon did was to appoint one of Josephine’s relatives as Viceroy of
Italy, and one of the first things the Viceroy did was change the name of the
villages of Pescino and Corte to Porto Napoleone.
A Gypsy Working the Crowd in Front of the Basilica
A few years later,
when the French annexed the Region of Liguria to the Kingdom of Sardinia, which
was ruled by the French House of Savoy, Duke Vittorio Emanuele III, whose full
name was Vittorio Emanuele Ferdinando Maria Gennaro of Savoy, decided to name
the town after his mother, Margherita. And that is how Pescino and Corte became
Porto Napoleone, which then became Santa Margherita.
Villa Durazzo - Built for a King, errr - I Mean a Doge.
Even back then Santa
Margherita was a very pretty and popular place favored by Italian royalty and wealthy
Genovese. It was so popular that when
they were building the first train line from Ventimiglia to Rome, the
Tyrrhenian Railway, they built two train stations for Santa Margherita. The
next major development was the advent of paved roads, and soon after that came the
construction of fabulous villas and grand hotels. In a very short time Santa
Margherita became the playground of the rich and richer, and in some ways it
Corner of the Garden @ the Villa Durazzo
In the center of town there is a beautiful cream
colored Basilica, the Basilica of Santa Margherita
D’Antiochia, better known as the Santuario di Nostra Signora della Rosa, the
Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rose. Like most of the old churches in Italy, it
was built over a pagan temple and renovated over the centuries.
During restoration work in 1672, workers discovered a jar filled
with rose scented water under the main altar. To this day, on the Sunday before
the Holy Day of May 5th, the Ascension of Jesus, locals bring roses
to the church to be blessed.
Even on a Cloudy Day, the View From Villa Durazzo is Beautiful
In front of the Basilica
you’ll see one of the best examples of decorative stonework, called risseu in Genovese dialect. It is one of
the specialties crafts of Liguria. But
the decoration doesn't stop there. Looking around you'll see high and narrow row houses painted in sweet pastel colors and often decorated in the most ingenious trompe
l’oeil. There are garlands and colored ribbons, balustrades, medallions and
more, all painted on flat concrete building to dazzle and fool the eye into thinking they are real, when
they are not.
But Santa Margherita is real enough,
as all the towns along this stretch of Liguria are, each touched by the genius of the Genovese, each beautiful in its own