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Summer is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors with family and friends, and one popular thing to do outside is to play a game of bocce. While there is no consensus on when or where bocce originated, as there is evidence of bocce being played in Greece, Turkey, and ancient Egypt as far back as 600 B.C., the current global infatuation with bocce originated with its popularity in Italy in the early 1800s. The game first made its way to the United States thanks to Italian immigrants, and bocce quickly gained the interest of people across America in the 20th century.

Although the game of bocce has evolved, the origins of bocce were evident during Rome's war against Carthage around 264 B.C. Soldiers would play by throwing small, spherical "leader" stones first. Afterward, larger stones would then be thrown at the "leader," with the stone coming closest to it scoring. Playing this game would help them relax and improve morale. Bocce was also a beloved game of Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi in the 1800s, and it gained a greater following after a bocce tournament was held in 1896 in Athens, Greece. As Italian immigrants traveled the world, they took their love of bocce with them and spread it everywhere they went.

To play bocce, balls are rolled toward a target, although there are variants in which the ball can be thrown instead. Although bocce sounds very similar to lawn bowling, which is often played on grass and open-sided fields rather than courts, bocce is played on a court with very specific requirements. First, the bocce court has playing field borders that are 6 inches tall or higher. Second, the court surface itself must be flat and made up of level, crushed stone. While the dimensions of the court may vary depending on its purpose, location, or official use, with courts varying from 8 to 14 feet in width and 60 to 91 feet in length, the United States Bocce Federation (USBF) states that courts intended for official use, such as tournaments, should be 13 feet wide by 91 feet long.

To play bocce, each team on the court must have at least two players, with a maximum of four allowed. The match itself begins with a coin flip between the team captains, with the winner of the toss getting the first toss of the pallino, the smaller ball, and the ability to choose the color of their team's balls. The pallino is always the first ball played, and it's thrown underhanded from behind the foul line, coming to a rest at least a foot from the sideboards and backboards while at least crossing the center line. Once in play, the pallino can be knocked anywhere on the court, as long as it doesn't come back over the center line or get knocked out of the court itself. The team that throws the pallino gets to throw the first ball, with all balls in bocce being thrown underhand. After all eight balls have been played, the teams measure the distance from their ball to the pallino. The team that gets closest to the pallino gets one point for each ball that is closer to the pallino than their opponents' closest ball. The first team to score 12 points wins the game.

Whether you are wanting to try something new, spend time with family, or just enjoy some outdoor play, bocce is fun game with a ton of benefits. Aside from the sheer addictive fun of bocce, it can also offer several physical benefits, such as improved flexibility and coordination along with some light cardio, making this game a favorite for both the young and the old. Furthermore, as it was used to calm troops long ago in Rome, playing bocce is a great way to relieve stress while soaking in the summer sun and enjoying the company of friends, old and new.

For more information about the sport of bocce, check out the resources listed below:

Written by: Ben Thompson