Bocce is a competitive sport, a strategic game, and a leisurely pastime, all rolled into one ever-popular activity.
Dating back to the Roman Empire, bocce, in all its derivations, has since captured the hearts of players and spectators the world over, no matter the age or skill level, where the objective is to roll balls on a court as close to a target ball as possible to score points. And, if you peek into some of the backyards or parking lots of local hangouts across America, it seems the popularity of bocce has recently shifted into high gear, especially in and around Boston. It’s no wonder that this year’s U.S. National Championship in June is in Methuen, MA.
I have fond memories of running through my grandparents’ backyard as a young girl, tossing the tiny white pallina through the freshly mown grass of summer, while the adults chased after it with their teams’ heavier, larger, red or green balls in hopes of scoring points during a weekend pickup game in my mostly Italian neighborhood in South Buffalo, NY. Friends and neighbors would join in on the fun all day, some recounting how they used to play in their local piazza back in Italy. It was a chance to be together, and to catch up on each others’ lives. And no matter how old you were, it was an opportunity to forget life’s pressures and just play outside with your friends.
My husband, I later learned, did the same thing as a kid in Lawrence, Massachusetts. So, a few years ago, when my parents gave us a bocce set for Christmas, we decided to carve out a corner of our own yard for a court. When the ground thawed, we hooked some railroad ties together with rebar, and we spread some stone dust on a scrap of yard under some trees–instant bocce court! (Here’s a link on how to build your own court and how to play.) Now, every summer we pull up a few lawn chairs for our family, neighbors, and friends, and we roll out some fun. Our children are outside, getting fresh air and exercise, enjoying friendly competition with their buddies–they think it’s cool. Who am I to tell them it’s old-fashioned?
Actually, it’s very cool these days. While still a regular fixture at many senior centers and public parks, now bars and restaurants are sacrificing parking space and rooftop accommodations for bocce courts because the demand is so high. Move over darts and billiards, bocce’s in town. Here are a few local places you’ll find them:
• The North End, Puopolo Park and Langone Park
• Allston/Brighton, Ringer Park
• Downtown Boston, at The Point, or Aeronaut Brewing Company
Major League Bocce is an organization, founded in 2004, that promotes bocce leagues for sport and fun across the country. Check out their website or Facebook page for more locations in Boston and around the country.
The United States Bocce Federation, established in 1977, is the preeminent organization that sets the rules, promotes the sport, and establishes guidelines for players on the countrywide and international levels. This year, the Methuen Sons of Italy, Lodge 902 is hosting the 2015 U.S. Bocce National Championships, June 22-27. For the first time ever in New England, the championship will host over 150 elite bocce players in five different events over the week. If you think that you’ve got what it takes to compete with the best, or if you simply want to join in on the fun of watching the best, be sure to check it out!
Bocce’s come a long way, and now, more than ever, it appears that future generations are guiding it along to a thriving tomorrow. Perhaps soon, “Bocce, anyone?” will become just as likely an invitation as any other.