Calcio Storico & Saint John’s After Party in Florence, Italy


One of the fireworks seen over the Ponte Vecchio on June 24th

It has been just over two weeks since Saint John’s little party here in Florence and things have settled down a bit. I almost forgot about all the fireworks and fun until a few days ago when I happened to walk through Piazza Santa Croce and noticed the stadium seating, which was set up for the famous Calcio Storico that takes place on the Saint’s Feast day (see here for more info). The seating, which is a bit of an eye sore to say the least, stays up for quite some time after the game to accommodate post-saint day spectacles such as the Calcio Storico charity match. This game, played between veteran Calcio players (calcianti), is only 5 Euro and will get you a seat and a taste of the official game while also benefitting a charity (this year’s charity was the Tuscan Tumor Association). In the photo below we see the traditional garb worn by the referees (of which there are six on the field at all times). They wear velvet caps and ostrich feathers along with bright and bold Renaissance-style pantaloons to make them easily identifiable if they happen to run into the fray to determine possession of the ball. After this event, the stadium seating is slowly (very very slowly) dismantled and taken away. In fact, I think yesterday was the first day the massive Piazza in front of Santa Croce Church was completely clear, give or take a pile of sand left over from the Calcio Storio “field.”

The calcio refs in their FABULOUS outfits

This year’s final game was between the Bianchi (the “whites” of the Santo Spirito neighborhood) and the Azzuri (the “blues” of the Santa Croce neighborhood).* Prior to the game each of these neighborhoods hung special banners outside homes and shops to notify passersby that they were in the neighborhood of one of the honored participants in this traditional event, dating back to the 15th century. The Bianchi-Azzuri’s long time rivalry has brought them face-to-face in quite a few past matches, usually in the Azzuri’s favor, and this year was no different. At the very end of the game the Azzuri pulled through with 2.5 goals to the Bianchi’s 1.5 goals.

I was reminded the other day of how significant the honor of participating in the match is for Florentines. I went to take my sandals to the best cobbler in Florence (Seriously. Head north on Borgo San Lorenzo, just past the Medici palace on the right. THE BEST) and saw a photo of my shoe-doctor on the Calcio field from in the 80s. He wore the Azzuro with obvious pleasure. He still practices and plays and was genuinely proud of the picture, one of only three of four pictures on the wall, including a picture of his father who was a cobbler before him.

Though I have never been so lucky as to sit in the stands on game-day, I have enjoyed the many summers of excitement and sports fervor. If you are interested in really seeing what a game is like, including the ceremony and pomp that precedes any match, check out this great site that includes several full-length games filmed from the stands.

*Other team colors include red for St. Maria Novella and green for St. Giovanni (i.e. the Baptistery).
Check out some of our Saint’s Day videos. One is the procession of the holy relics from the Duomo to Baptistery and the other is a procession of flag bearers exiting Piazza del Duomo back towards Piazza della Signoria.

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