Florentine historic football, the sporting tradition and districts of Florence

1-15 June 2024 in Florence: the 4 historical districts of Florence compete as usual in one of the oldest games in the world.

Do you know our oldest tradition? The Florentine Historical Football. The tournament always takes place in June, with its final for San Giovanni, on June 24: a day of celebration in honor of the patron saint of the city that starts with the ceremony of the candles in the morning,  passes through the final of Calcio Storico in the afternoon, and ends with fireworks in the evening. ATTENTION: this year, due to municipal elections, this year's semifinals tournament will take place on June 1st and 2nd and the final on June 15th.

On Netflix you can watch a special episode dedicated to the Florentine Historical Football! Click here. 


Since the Middle Ages, the four different factions of Florence have clashed in a traditional and spirited game. The teams have one goal: to bring the ball to the opponent’s end of the field and therefore win the game. That's right, some of the most famous contemporary sports including American football, rugby, boxing and certainly the most famous of all, calcio (football), are all descendents of sports with Greek, Roman, and partly Florentine, origin.

The Giuoco del Calcio Fiorentino - later known as Calcio Storico (Historic Football) or costume football due to the wonderful traditional clothes in which the game is still played today - is a sport played with a ball in which players very physically defend their part of the field from their opponent. Every year, passionate spectators from all over the world follow the tournament, engrossed in the original, daring and exciting battle. 

Photo credits: http://www.calciostoricofiorentino.it/

On February 17, 1530 during the siege of Emperor Charles V upon the city of Florence in the attempt to overcome the Florentine Republic and return the Medici family, the most significant football game was played in Piazza Santa Croce (in Florence it had been played since the 15th century). The Florentines, although exhausted by the war, organized a large procession and started playing football in Piazza Santa Croce to deride the enemy. In 1930, to honor the deeds of the leader Francesco Ferrucci and in memory of this famous occasion, the glorious game that had been abandoned in the 1700s was resumed and thus began the annual holding of the Calcio Storico tournament, held in Piazza Santa Croce.

Photo credits: https://www.interno.gov.it/it/galleria-immagini/firenze-piazza-santa-croce-calcio-storico-fiorentino

To be precise, usually the Calcio Storico games are always played in June, with the grand finale on June 24, the feast day in Florence for San Giovanni, the patron saint of the city.


Every year the teams representing each district clash their colors:

  • Whites of Santo Spirito,
  • Reds of Santa Maria Novella,
  • Greens of San Giovanni
  • Blues of Santa Croce

The competition between the four historic districts becomes very heated in the field and, above all, in the stands. Although today there are not many Florentines who still live in the neighborhoods of the historic center (with the exception of the ‘Whites’ of Santo Spirito), the sense of belonging and pride are certainly traits of Florentines in general.


The tournament consists of two semi-final games and one final held to determine the winner on June 24. The players, called Calcianti, are powerful warriors with a lot of physical strength who take to the streets in the name of their district. The teams have 50 minutes to try to get a “caccia” (score) in the opposing team's net, if the ball ends up beyond the net, a half score will be awarded to the opposing team. Players are free to pass the ball with their hands and often resort to clashes and fights in their attempts to block opponents. In the case of injury or disqualification, no substitutions are allowed.

The winner of the tournament gets declared champion, and the flag of the winning district is displayed throughout the year in front of the Palagio di Parte Guelfa in Florence.

Photo credits: https://magazine.hotelbrunelleschi.it/visitare-firenze/calcio-storico-fiorentino/

Every game of Calcio Fiorentino begins with the so-called Saluto alla Voce (salute to the voices) ceremony: after the complete line-up and recreation of the historic procession on the field, the Guard of the District and the Contado Fiorentino orders the so-called "tocchi di tamburo" (playing of drums).

Each command corresponds to a specific drum roll and certain movements:

  1. Await the command
  2. Pay attention, weapons in hand
  3. Present your weapons, salute!
  4. Return to positions, arms on the ground
  5. Rest by your weapons
After the great war, a last cry was added that made everything more engaging and exciting in the square full of Florentines:

Let’s shout it together, Viva Fiorenza!

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