Monday, January 15, 2007

Associazione Boccifilo Mura Zerbino

While walking around an area of Genova east of Castelletto, I wandered into an area in which there were many bocci courts lining the street. Located along Mura dello Zerbino are several different bocci clubs. One of the clubs seemed fairly private and I could only watch from a distance, while another was open along the street with plenty of benches to sit and watch. The name of this particular club was the Associazione Boccifila Mura Zerbino. Despite some not so inviting looks from the men, I sat and watched them play for about an hour, snapping a few photos and hoping they would ask me to play. Bocci is a game I often play on the beach at home with family and friends. The rules we play by are a much more relaxed version of those followed by the Italians, who take the sport much more seriously. The sport originated in the Provence region of France, where it is called petanque or boules, and is still the most popular sport in the region. It migrated to Italy, and is becoming more popular in other parts of France, including Paris. The rules appeared similar to the bastardized version I play in the United States. The game begins by throwing the smaller ball (cochonnet in French and pallino in Italian) within the playing area. The pallino must rest a minimum distance from where it was thrown. This distance appeared to be 10 meters, as I observed the men counting off steps to insure that their opponent had thrown it the required distance. If this method was not accurate enough, a length of bamboo was used to measure, and then a ruled meter stick to get very precise measurements. The goal is to then throw your bocci balls closer to the pallino than your opponent. Bocci balls or boules are made of steel and are smaller than the ceramic ones I have played with in the US. Each team is made up of two or three members. The team who has not thrown the pallino throws the first ball, then the second team has a turn. Subsequently, the team that throws next is the one who does not have the closer ball. One defensive tactic often used is to knock the opposing team's ball completely out of the playing area with your own throw. The men could execute this with pinpoint accuracy. They often seemed to get more satisfaction out of knocking the other team's ball, rather than rolling their own ball closer. Individual skill did not seem to be the most important factor in winning the game. Shouting and disputing the opponent's play was a very important part of the game, and made it very entertaining to watch.

Will Wingfield

Map of Associazione Boccifilo Mura Zerbino

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