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The History of Bocce Ball

Updated on September 13, 2013

Bocce - A Game From Ancient Times

The game of bocce was born during ancient times. The game is so old in fact, that many historians can't agree on when this game actually came into being. We do know however that a form of bocce ball was being played around 5200 BC by the ancient Egyptians. Evidence of this can be seen in hieroglyphics.

From Egypt, this game spread to the Middle East and Asia. It was played by common-folk. Around 800 BC the game of bocce found its way to Greece where it because a favored game of the high society. We owe it to the Greeks for evolving this game into what it has become today.

Throughout history, bocce has been played with a variety of items, from coconuts, to melons, rounded stones, and even carved olive wood. Today they are made from plastic, chromed steel, and more commonly resin materials.

Bocce ball is a fun game that can be enjoyed by all. I often refer to it as a 'high class corn hole' game.

(Image Credit to Liz West - Licensed via Creative Commons with Attribution)

The Banning of Bocce

Throughout history, the game of bocce faced many challenges. Its growing popularity caused it to be banned by many cultures for a variety of reasons.

Around 1319, the Roman Emperor Charles the IV outlawed the game of bocce, because it was deemed a threat to the empire's military readiness. It was said to be taking too much time away from military exercises and archery training.

In 1576, the Republic of Venice outlawed bocce ball, and made it a crime that was punishable with fines or even imprisonment.

The Catholic Church even condemned bocce during the early days. It prohibited clergymen and lay people from playing the game on the grounds that it was a means of gambling.

Even in more recent time King Carlos of Spain issued a ban on bocce. This occurred sometime during his rule from December 1788 until his abdication on March 1808.

Bocce ball survived throughout history. During the bans it was played in alley ways and out of sight. It has evolved into a popular game played around the world today. It has gained popularity in the United States as well, where there are well over 200 official bocce facilities hosting thousands of local and regional tournaments each year.

(Image Credit to Braden Kowitz - Licensed via Creative Commons with Attribution)

Famous Bocce Players Throughout History

While bocce's roots come from common-folk, it evolved into a game of the elite. There were a number of famous people from renaissance men, emperors, kings, and even US presidents that were fond of this sport.

Here are a few notable people throughout history that are known to have played the game of bocce:

  • Roman Emperor Augustus lived from 27 BC until 14 AD. He was responsible for bringing bocce into mainstream society after seeing his soldiers play the game.
  • Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian painter, sculpter, mathematician, inventor, and so much more. He lived from 1452 until 1519. This 'Renaissance Man' was known to spend time playing bocce as a way to relax.
  • Britain's King Henry VIII was an avid player of bocce, but felt that it should only be enjoyed by the wealthy ruling class. Peasants were banned from playing the game in 1511 because he did not want them distracted from their trades.
  • Physicist and astronomer Galileo lived from 1564 until 1642. He was known to be a bocce enthusiast who relaxed and refocused his mind on the bocce court.
  • George Washington was a US president known as 'the father of our country'. He may also be the 'father of bocce ball in America'. In the 1780's, he reportedly built a bocce court at his home in Mount Vernon.

(Image Credit to Cliff - Licensed via Creative Commons with Attribution)

How to Play Bocce

Bocce is a game that can really be played in any open space. You can play in the yard, on the beach, in a dirt lot, or even on a regulation bocce court. The game is pretty simple. Bocce can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It can be played by two opponents, or two teams each consisting of two players.

To play this game, you need a bocce ball set that consists of eight balls and a pallino (or jack). The balls are typically two different colors, and each team throws the same colored balls respectively.

The game starts as player 1 throws the pallino out into the playing area, which is typically called the alley. The same player or team will then throw one of their balls and try to get it as close as possible to the pallino. Then the opposing player or team will throw their balls until they have a ball closer to the pallino than their opponent's ball. Play continues in this manner, switching back and forth between the teams with each having to get their ball closer to the pallino than their opponent's previous throw. You can even target another player's ball to knock it out of the way.

Scoring is determined by which team's balls are closest to the pallino. The balls from one team that are closest to the pallino each get one point. After the score for that turn is recorded, players switch sides and repeat the process until one team reaches the winning number of points. Official tournaments are played to a score of 9, 11, or 15 points, but some backyard games are played to a score of 21.

(Image Credit to Jenny Poole - Licensed via Creative Commons with Attribution)

What Do You Need to Play Bocce

Bocce is a simple but addictive game that is easy to play. To play this game, you need a bocce ball set that contains a set of bocce balls and the pallino or jack. These sets will often come in a carrying case that makes this game very portable. It is a great game to take to the beach, a party, or a family gathering. There is even a Glow Bocce set that can be played in the dark.

There are a few additional accessories that you may want to consider that will enhance the game. One is a score tower that will allow the teams to easily keep track of the score. The other is a measuring device that can be used to determine who is closest to the jack.

Park & Sun Sports Bocce Ball Set with Deluxe Carrying Bag: PRO, 109 mm Poly-Resin Balls
Park & Sun Sports Bocce Ball Set with Deluxe Carrying Bag: PRO, 109 mm Poly-Resin Balls

The Park & Sun 109mm bocce ball set is ideal for anyone looking to get into the game of bocce. This set has an average customer rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars and is a quality set for the price.

This set contains 8 balls, one pallino, a distance marker, and a carrying bag to make transporting easy. The balls are made from a durable resin.

 
Playaboule Lighted Glo Boules - Bocce Ball / Petanque Set
Playaboule Lighted Glo Boules - Bocce Ball / Petanque Set

The Playaboule Lighted Glo bocce set is a great choice for those hot summer nights. Why let the fun end when the sun goes down? These lighted balls allow you to play a unique and fun game of bocce after dark.

The set contains 8 lighted balls, a lighted pallino, and a carrying case. These bocce balls are great for new players, and are made from a durable polyproylene.

 
Boule Set of 8 - Polished Alloy Petanque Set
Boule Set of 8 - Polished Alloy Petanque Set

If you are looking for a classy set of bocce balls, then the Jaques Polished Alloy set is worth taking a look at.

Some people really love that metal vs. metal "clang" as these polished alloy balls strike each other.

The set comes with 8 balls, a pallino, and a carrying case.

 
Extendable Bocce Measuring Device - single
Extendable Bocce Measuring Device - single

This light weight extendable measure device is perfect for determining who is closer to the pallino. It fits right in your pocket and extends out to three feet.

 

Video Tutorial on How to Play Bocce

Here is a great video tutorial that will teach you how to play bocce. You get to see a demonstration of how to play this fun game.

Bocce Duel

Have you ever played the game of bocce?

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Submit a Comment

  • girlfriendfactory 3 years ago

    Yep, love it! It's fun and fairly easy for anyone.

  • PaigSr 3 years ago from State of Confussion

    There is a lot of people in the town I grew up in that play this game.

  • Old Navy Guy 3 years ago

    Having grown up with Italian relatives, of course I played the game. But I never knew until today that the game originated in Egypt

No

Submit a Comment

  • GrammieOlivia 3 years ago

    I have watched many people playing but have never play it myself.

  • RinchenChodron 3 years ago

    No, I have not.

  • anonymous 3 years ago

    heard of it, watched it, never played it.

  • OneHappyFeet 3 years ago

    Not yet

  • Steve Dizmon 3 years ago from Nashville, TN

    I have not played and had no idea how it was played before visiting this Lens. Thanks.

Here is where you get to chime in.

Leave me a message, let me know what you think, and let me know that you were here!

So What Do You Think About the Game of Bocce?

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    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 18 months ago

      interesting hub

    • janey126 profile image

      janey126 3 years ago

      Wow what a great info and lens! Just awesome!

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 3 years ago

      Thanks I needed that tutorial, now I need some bocce balls.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Came back to let you know I saw your lens featured on IMMINENT History Highlight Reel, congratulations!

    • profile image

      Scott A McCray 3 years ago

      Looks like fun - may have to give it a try!

    • Stuwaha profile image

      Stuwaha 3 years ago

      Bocce is a big favorite in my family. A tournament at every family event :) Can't wait to teach it to my children!

    • Stuwaha profile image

      Stuwaha 3 years ago

      Bocce is a big favorite in my family. A tournament at every family event :) Can't wait to teach it to my children!

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Nicely done, looks like a fun game

    • OneHappyFeet profile image

      OneHappyFeet 3 years ago

      I've always wanted to learn to play. Thanks

    • girlfriendfactory profile image

      girlfriendfactory 3 years ago

      Great history of bocce ball. Such a fun game!

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 3 years ago from State of Confussion

      I would rather play the game in an open field then on a bocce court.

    • Old Navy Guy profile image

      Old Navy Guy 3 years ago

      Thanks for a fun read and a look back to the days of my youth.