A Walk in Nizza

Exploring history, food, and culture between the Belbo river and the vineyard hills of Monferrato

Flying bowls – il gioco delle bocce


IMG_4327A game played in all the Mediterranean area since 7000 BC. is one of the classic pastimes in Piedmont, where the rules variants are the same as the ones used in Provence for “boules”.
The local variant is sometimes called Bocce volo (‘flying bocce’) or simply Volo due to the fact that the bowls are not rolled towards the target, but rather tossed in a parabolic flight.
It is basically the same game as, and the Italian counterpart of, the French game jeu provençal, also known as boule lyonnaise, the ancestor of pétanque.
Bocce volo is similar to pétanque in that the ball is thrown rather than rolled or bowled. It is similar to traditional bocce (and different from pétanque) in that the ball is delivered with a run-up. A volo players’ run-up is athletic, even theatrical, as in jeu provençal.

IMG_4328In bocce volo, the balls are thrown either underhand (palm up) or overhand (palm under), and are made of metal (aluminum alloys, steel or sometimes, for professional players, titanium), while in standard bocce, the wooden or plastic balls are tossed underhand (palm up) and rolled.

Volo derives its name from the Italian verb volare meaning ‘to fly’, and refers to the technique of throwing a ball through the air in an attempt to knock away an opponent’s ball.

As a curious note, many bowlers use carbonated drinks – usually Coke or Pepsy – to clean their bowls after use.

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