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History of boules game: resilience of an ancient tradition

by Marzia Parmigiani
7 minutes read
boules game people

The game of boules is a popular and beloved entertainment in many countries around the world, with roots dating back to ancient Egypt and ancient Rome. The modern version of the game, popular especially in Italy, is a special pastime for both casual players on a sunny afternoon and enthusiasts participating in organized tournaments. In Italian it is called “bocce”.

So, in this article we will use both the Italian and English terms. It requires a mix of strategy, physical skill and precision. It is a discipline that invites conviviality and confrontation, combined with healthy and stimulating competition.

History of boules: The journey of bocce through the centuries

Boules has a history stretching back thousands of years. Historical documents testify that ancient pastime similar to boules were already being played in ancient Egypt, while the Roman version of the play profoundly influenced the current one. Bowls, in fact, were popular among Roman soldiers, who introduced them throughout Europe during their military campaigns. In the modern era, the game has reached its peak of popularity in Italy, where bocce has become a fundamental element of popular and social culture.

Engaging in sports activities, such as playing with a French boules set, not only promotes physical well-being but also fosters a sense of camaraderie and healthy competition.

What are the basic rules for boules? Rules: The boules’ game basics

Bocce is played with eight heavy balls – four per team – and a smaller ball called a ‘pallino’. The ball is thrown at the beginning of the pastime to establish the reference point. Then, in turn, players or teams throw their bowls, trying to get as close as possible to the ball. The score is awarded at the end of each ‘end’ (or ‘run’), with the team or player whose bocce ball is closest to the ball earning a point. More than one point may be awarded per end if a team has more than one ball closer to the ball than their opponent’s closest ball.

Tactics and strategy

Although bowls may seem like a game of pure physical skill, strategy plays a key role. Participants must decide whether to try to place their own bowls close to the ball, or attempt to hit their opponents’ bowls to move them. In addition, it is important to consider the playing field, as small variations in the surface can affect the path of the bowls. This aspect of requires in-depth knowledge and tactical analysis, making boules a sport as fascinating as it is complex.

Boules in modern culture: a timeless pastime

Today, boules maintains its popularity not only in Italy, but all over the world. It is a game that transcends cultural and language barriers, uniting people through friendly competition and social interaction. Boules is featured in numerous international contests, including the World Games. Moreover, the play is increasingly popular as a team-building activity in corporate settings due to its combination of strategy, skill and socialization. Despite its ancient beginnings, boules continues to adapt and flourish in an ever-changing modern world.

The equipment: boules balls and courts

Boules balls are made of various materials, including wood, metal and plastic, and their weight usually varies between 900 grams and 1200 grams. The ball is significantly smaller and lighter.

The playing surfaces can vary widely, from grass fields to gravel or sand surfaces. Some grounds are ‘open’, i.e. without side boundaries, while others are ‘enclosed’, bounded by side banks. This variety of equipment and environments contributes to the richness and diversity of the game.

Regional variants: From “pétanque” to “bowls”

There are many regional variations of the game of bowls. For example, in France, ‘pétanque’ is played with small metal balls and the player must throw with their feet stationary within a small circle. In the UK, ‘bowls’ is played on a flat, smooth lawn, and the balls used, called ‘bowls’, are asymmetrical to allow for curved throws. These regional variations enrich the culture of the game of bowls, showing how a single basic idea can be interpreted in different ways around the world.

The social role of boules

Bocce is a highly social game. Whether it is a friendly pastime in a local park or an organised tournament, the game encourages interaction between participants. It is an opportunity to get together, share laughter and compete in a relaxed environment. In many countries, bocce courts are venues where people gather to socialise, keeping alive an ancient tradition and fostering community cohesion.

The importance of sports ethics in the game of bowls

Despite the competition, the game of bowls is imbued with a deep respect for sporting ethics. Respect for opponents, honesty in counting points, and good conduct during play are values that are strongly rooted in the bocce culture. This respect for sports ethics not only makes the game more enjoyable, but also an excellent educational opportunity, especially for young players.

The future of boules

Boules has a promising future. With its growing popularity around the world, more and more people are discovering the pleasure of this ancient pastime. As both a competitive sport and a recreational hobby, bocce has the potential to remain a beloved part of global culture for many years to come.

With the advent of digital technologies, new opportunities for innovation in the game are emerging, such as augmented and virtual reality applications, which could take bowls to new levels of popularity and accessibility.

The bottom line: resilience of an ancient tradition

In this article we explored history of boules game: resilience of an ancient tradition. It is a game that has stood the test of time, adapting and thriving through millennia of cultural and social change. It is a play that brings people together, fosters friendly competition and promotes a sense of community. It is a game that demands skill, strategy and precision, but is at the same time accessible to players of all ages and abilities.

Bocce continues to be a beloved and popular pastime around the world, combining ancient traditions with modern global culture. Whether played in a local park or in an international tournament, the game of bocce offers a unique and engaging experience that highlights the beauty of the sport and the human spirit.

And in an increasingly digitised and constantly changing era, bocce demonstrates that some fundamental elements of human culture, such as play, competition and community, remain surprisingly constant. Indeed, bocce, with its long history and resilience, is a mirror of our own resilience as a species. That is why, even in today’s world, the game of bocce is more alive and vibrant than ever. Keep following us to discover stories and our new LCN App.

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