Italian Culture and Leisure: Pasta, Wine, and Bocce

Updated by Jim Deckebach

The game of bocce evolved from games played during the Roman Empire and is closely tied to Italian culture. Bocce is as symbolic of Italian culture as wine. In fact, many wineries have bocce courts on their premises so visitors can play after sampling the latest vintages. From its beginnings in Italy, the game has spread around the world. It is very popular in Adriatic countries, including Serbia and Croatia, in South America, and in the United States, where Italian immigrants established Bocce ball leagues. It's also become quite popular among athletes who participate in the Special Olympics.

Bocce Equipment

Bocce is very portable and can be quickly set up at a picnic, park, or beach. The limited equipment needed to play bocce is one reason for its enduring popularity. All that's needed to play is a set of bocce balls. Two different kinds of balls make up a set. The first is the bocce ball. They come in a range of sizes because different ability groups and ages play better with varying sizes. However, the regulation ball is around 4.2 inches in diameter. The bocce balls come in two different colors, so it's easy to tell which ball belongs to which team. The pallino, also known as the jack, is a more petite ball that serves as the target for the balls during the game.

Bocce Court

The court used to play bocce must be flat and smooth. However, it can consist of turf, sand, or grass. When playing with friends or family any size space can be used. However, the official bocce court dimensions are 13x91 feet. For all types of Bocce games, a raised border around the perimeter of the court is recommended, but not necessary for social play. Many people make their own court. After making the rectangle-shaped court, the next step is to mark the two foul lines, so players know where not to step while throwing. The centerline of the court must also be marked. Most people use chalk, string, or simply carving a line in the ground to make these markings.


At least two people are needed for a bocce game, but it can be played with up to eight players. The flexibility of the game is another reason for its continued success. How many balls each player must bowl is determined by the team size. On single-player teams, that one player must bowl all four balls. Otherwise, the number of balls is divided by the number of players. While one player on the team bowls, the other team members are free to socialize and sip their wine on the sidelines!

Bocce Rules

The court is ready, the players have been divided into teams, and so now it's time to play! Bocce games are divided into a series of frames. Points are awarded after the completion of each frame.

  1. The first player tosses the pallino, which must pass the centerline. This sets the target for the first frame of the frame.

  2. The same player now bowls with a bocce ball, and their goal is to get their ball as close to the pallino as they can.

  3. A player from the other team now bowls their bocce ball. Their objective is to get closer to the pallino than the first player did. If they succeed, their ball is now considered the inside ball and the opposing team gets a turn. If not, they rotate their players until they have either gotten an inside ball or run out of bocce balls.

  4. The team currently bowling is always the team that doesn't have the current inside ball. The frame ends once all balls held by the team without the inside ball have been thrown.

  5. Players are allowed to hit the opposing team's bocce balls or the pallino when they bowl. Usually, this is one of the strategies employed to win the game!

Bocce Scoring

At the end of a frame, the team with the inside ball is awarded at least one point. If the balls of both teams are equally far away from the pallino then no one is awarded any points. Each ball that's considered inside receives one point. Some versions of the scoring rules give two points to any balls directly touching the pallino (when a bocce ball touches the pallino in this manner it is known as the kiss). Officially a bocce game ends when one team scores twelve points. Someone typically keeps a scoring sheet so there's a record of the game. However, players can agree to change the winning threshold of points to allow for shorter or longer games.

Additional Information on Bocce


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