Developed into its present form in Italy, it is played around Europe and also in overseas countries that have received Italian migrants, including the United States, Canada and Australia, initially amongst the migrants themselves but slowly becoming more popular with their descendants and the wider community.
Unlike bowls, bocce is played on dirt courts of approximately 20 to 30 meters in length and approximately 2.5 to 4 meters wide, and has wooden boards surrounding the court. Bocce bowls are made of brass, and unlike lawn bowls they are spherical and have no inbuilt bias (they will roll a straight course). Bocce courts are also equipped with surrounding wooden boards of approximately 15 centimeters in height. Like bowls, a game can be contested between two players, or two teams of two or four.
Bocce was first documented in a 5200 B.C. painting of two boys paying, which was discovered by an English scientist, Sir Francis Petrial, in an Egyptian tomb.
Bocce spread throughout Palestine and into Asia Minor. In 600 B.C., Bocce was picked up by the Greeks and passed to the Romans. It was played everywhere, from the churches and castles to the city streets. People from all walks of life could play the game; young or old, man or woman.
In 1319 A.D., Bocce was actually prohibited to people of lesser nobility because it was felt that it diverted attention from more important tasks, such as archery and war training. In 1519, Bocce became a public game. It was played in Flanders, Holland and Belgium.
Greek colonists brought Bocce with them to what is now modern Italy. It became so popular that it was once again threatened with prohibition, as people who were playing Bocce in the streets were hitting the knees of passing noblemen with the Bocce balls. Although unfortunate for the humbler people who played Bocce, this problem brought widespread attention to the sport among Italian noblemen and Bocce immediately became a favorite pastime.
Popularized by ITALY
It was Giussepi Garibaldi, who, while unifying and nationalizing Italy, popularized the sport as it is known today. Bocce frequently lost and gained popularity throughout the ages. In 1896, during a resurgence of popularity, the first Bocce Olympiad was held in Athens, Greece. Bocce has been a part of international sports ever since.
Bocce has seen many changes throughout the ages. It has evolved from being a crude sport played with rounded rocks, or even coconuts, to the modern game with composite or metal balls. Bocce can be played upon any level surface by anyone who is willing to try. It is a game for all ages, gender and athletic ability. It is a very versatile game in which the rules may be changed according to the players. Play may range from a nearly nonexistent set of rules to the strictest of tournament rules.