Welcome to Pete's Bocci Page!

Greetings! I started this page as a tribute to a game that has been a pleasure to me for over 30 years. This page will change over time. Please visit often. E-mail me with any suggestions!

If you're not familiar with the game of bocci (or bocce, if you prefer*!) and are looking for a set of rules, etc; then permit me to refer you to other sites on the net. See my "Links" below. Some of these have done an EXCELLENT job in defining the history, rules, equipment, court, etc., of the game. One thing you won't learn on this page is "how to play". That information can be found on many other sites on the net. Another reason I won't pretend to present a set of bocci rules is covered in the next paragraph! Rather, I might offer a little advice and point the beginner in the right direction (I hope!). However, I want this page to be more than a "links" page. I wanted to share and document some of my personal experiences with the game, rather than have just a clinical overview or study of the game.

Before I continue, though, there's something you need to know: Bocci bonds friendships like nothing else. Few other sports can bring the members of any profession or status in society together like a game of bocce. So, if you want to make lifelong friendships, have lots of laughs, and above all else have a great time, then keep on reading, and study and participate in the game called bocci. If you don't want to take my word for this camaraderie stuff, then read what the United States Bocce Federation {Click here!} says about it!

One thing the beginner needs to know: Currently there seem to be "too many standards" for rules and court sizes. Personally, in my back yard, I use a 12' x 60' court. There are lots of organizations that have very official & global sounding names and titles. Organizations with words like "U.S.", "World Wide", "Association" and "Federation" in them all come to mind! At the moment, I don't belong to any of these, but I am a former member of the United States Bocce Federation. Frankly, I let my membership[ lapse after the first year. I've been somewhat disappointed by their magazine (only published quarterly, I believe). It seems to consist of a high percentage of two singular subjects:

#1) Promoting the organization itself, and/or election of its officials or other organization politics. This always throws a "red flag" with me whenever an organization feels obliged to use many pages of each issue to promote itself.

#2) Scores/results of past tournaments. Ancient history. Sure, everyone likes to see their name in print, or a snapshot of the top three scorers. But multiply this times the X tourny's every month. Factor the lag time to get to press (many results were months old!). This makes for some pretty stale reading. Maybe put that info on a "Results" web page or something. Unless, of course, there's really nothing else to talk about! Can this be so?

There's precious little "meat" (instruction, tips, "how to" articles, etc.) that I see for any caliber player on how to improve his/her game. Few advertisements for useful gadgets or accessories, other than an occasional ad from a hotel that's hosting a bocce tourny, etc. The photographs feature primarily (dare I say alarmingly) members of the geriatric set (which I'm rapidly approaching!). Far too few young faces. Some, but not many. These folks could take a lesson from another somewhat "esoteric" magazine: "Chess Life". Published by the United States Chess Federation (USCF), there are regularly features for the beginner, middle player, and expert alike. There are strategy puzzles & quizzes, etc., written by well respected masters in the subject, to captivate your attention. The comparison to chess is not lost there. I feel both chess and bocce require analytical skill and a good math "intuition" (I didn't say you had to be "good at" math!). To be good at both bocce and chess, you need a "plan". Both capitalize on mistakes made by your opponent. Both can have last minute defeats and victories. There are other comparisons, I believe. Thus, it could argued, the magazines could be similar to each other in nature. I didn't intend for this to be a public "bash" of the United States Bocce Federation. Indeed, I'm glad they exist. I have the utmost respect for the organiztion. However, I feel they need to seriously overhaul their magazine (and perhaps the philosophy behind it!).

One final word on "bocci standards": Bear in mind this game has been around for thousands of years, evolved in a few different lands at different times, etc. You may have to wait a few more (years, at least!), before there's any "universal" rule set.

Okay time to 'fess up, and tell you: I don't really have a bocci "court" per se in my backyard. I DO have a back yard lawn that is large, and I have an area designated for the purpose that's just slightly larger than 12'x60' - more or less unobstructed by trees, landscape timbers, swing sets, kid forts, and usually cats, etc. I use four 2"x4" blocks just to mark out the boundaries. Your "court" can be even simpler or much more elaborate. In his book "The Joy of Bocce ", Mario Pagnoni provides a chapter on the basics of building your own "real" backyard court! Be warned though - as Mario says in his book (see links below!), after he built his backyard court:

"I had almost forgotten how much joy good friends and good lawn bocce could provide. Building a backyard court brings with it this trade-off. You are going to get better at competitive tournament-style bocce, but you are probably not going to play much on the lawn again."

For now, I'm just a backyard warrior playing on the grass. But make no mistake - never think for a moment that those that play on the grass are any less passionate than those that play on the courts! I have some water drainage issues that prohibit me from building a court at the moment. Though once I get a "Bobcat" in the back yard, that might resolve much of the problem... Hmmmmm, that gives me an idea! Do you s'pose I could tell my wife that the bocci court is really a "back yard drainage control enhancement"?

Another thing I wanted to mention on this page is how I learned to play. I was born and raised in Amsterdam, New York (Exit 27 on the Thruway!),in the Mohawk Valley. There are a high percentage of bocci players in the area. In Amsterdam, there are bocci courts on the "South Side" of the city. I've only played them a few times in years past. However, there are many leagues sponsored by various bars, restaurants, grills, taverns and other local businesses. As I recall, even a church or two had a league. A lifelong friend, Paul Labate, taught me (ok, I've only known him 38+ years or so!). We've played everywhere - in backyards, beaches, etc. Little did I know that when Paul taught me that game, it would be a game for life. Click here to read Paul's life-long journey with the game.

Since that time, I've taught my son (probably at about age 4 or so - he's over 20 now - and still loves the game!) to play. Imagine that... an activity that a 20+ year old ace Playstation2, Nintendo and PC game player would actually put down the game controllers for! And I haven't even mentioned that my 16 year-old daughter also plays and loves the game. She learned it at an equally young age! Truly, bocce can be a "family affair"! Note: for toddler players, water filled balls are available from a few sources. These days, over 1400 miles separate me from my bocci mentor. Thank goodness for e-mail! If Paul hadn't taught me, I wouldn't have a love for the game, and couldn't have taught my children The Game. So now, Paul knows that thanks to him, another generation has learned the game! I recently added some notes from Paul about how he learned to play, some of the rules he plays by, etc.

You can get a bocci set very reasonably. You can spend what you wish (more or less!). I would expect to pay between, say, $20 and $150. Though as in everything else, the sky is the limit! I recently purchased a new set off of Ebay. Here's a picture of it!

If you're a beginner, you should take an hour or two and educate yourself so you know what equipment costs (what's reasonable to pay for a new set or a used set) and the different levels of quality available, also factor in shipping charges, etc; Ebay and other online sources may be a good place to shop around for a new set. But you need to know what stuff is worth! Just because someone outbid you by $10 on Ebay doesn't mean you should outbid them with another $10, unless of course, it's "worth it". But don't throw good money after bad. Also, I've noticed the same people selling bocci sets week in and week out, so you might contact the seller and ask if they'll be selling more sets like the one you're looking at. Let the fool and his money part ways! The same seller may have an identical set up for grabs again in 3 days! The set you see above retails for over $100 (with tax, etc.). I paid approximately $70 (shipping included!). Bear in mind that a tourney grade bocci set is going to be heavy. The set you see above is over 30 pounds! Make sure the set you're looking at is a bargain. If the price is just "fair", then you don't want to add in $30 shipping! Don't overlook any second-hand sporting goods stores (including pawn shops!). Around here there's a store, apparently part of a nation-wide franchise called "Play It Again Sports". Check your phone listings and see if there's one near you. These people reportedly sell used sporting goods equipment. This would be a likely place I would want to check, if I didn't already have the above set. I would have acquired a used set, however, the bocci playing population of the Tulsa, Oklahoma metro area seems rather low. Thus the number of used sets available is quite small. Just make sure the set is complete, and with no MAJOR chips, gouges, etc; that might affect ball performance. There should be a total of 8 balls plus the pallino for a total of 9 balls. There should be 4 balls of each color (red and green seem most common) and a yellow or white pallino. Minor surface scratches, fading and the like only add "character" to the set. Some folks have sets that have been handed down from generation to generation. A friendly word of caution: If you have children, keep an eye on all the balls (and pallino). An incomplete set is of little value. I usually check the set when I pack it away between games. Evidently I "dropped the ball" (sorry!) on my supervision of the previous set (but, heck, I only had it maybe 13 years or so)! The pauline (aka pallino, jack ball, etc.) and a ball vanished sometime in the course of a week. Actually I suspect the bratty neighbor kids (the ones that don't want to know bocci from broccoli!), but hey, who knows?! Then I made a BIG mistake: In my anger and disappointment, I trashed the rest of the set! I should have kept it. Perhaps I could have used them for replacement of any missing balls that might come up in the next 13 years! But seriously - if one person can learn from this lesson, it'll be worth the public embarrassment of me mentioning this! Paul tells me the "bocci gods" surely frowned on that move, but I redeemed myself by getting the replacement set.

One of the things that makes bocci such a neat game is that it can be as complicated or as simple as the players agree to. You can play it at the beach while waiting for the steaks to cook, you can play out behind the restaurant waiting for your order to come. You can play a game with friends while having the tailgate party and waiting for traffic to clear at a NASCAR race! You can play a game in a few minutes or an hour (but not while others are waiting for the court, please!). There's not an absolute score to play to as a limit, although 11,12,15,16 and 21 points seem to be most popular! Personally, depending on how much time I have, I'll play either a 15 or 21 point game.

You needn't be especially physically or mentally gifted. In fact it's a sport in The Special Olympics. One of the few games that both very young and old, the physically fit and the physically challenged, and everyone in between can participate in. Not to digress, but back in November of 2000, I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure. Currently I have few limitations (either physician or physically imposed!). Occasionally, I currently suffer from a lack of stamina/endurance. That will (hopefully) come back over the course of time. The point is, despite this serious health care concern, I can still enjoy bocci as much as ever! For that I am thankful!

Having said all that, bocci can become somewhat complex if you want it to. You can employ certain strategies and techniques, which may prevail over an unlearned opponent! Mario's book (click the link or keep reading for info!) covers these techniques. Sure, there's a texture to the terrain that you can't control, or a blemish on the court or whatever, but with a little study and a lot of practice, you can "hedge your bets"! Remember, even if you've only been playing a month, you still have more experience than someone that just picked up the pallino for the first time! Don't worry about it, know what I mean?! Above all things, bocci is meant to be FUN! Enjoy the game!

Perhaps a local player can help you refine your game once you know the basics. Another thing you can do to get into the bocci action in your area is to use an Internet search engine (such as Google, Altavista or Yahoo) and search for "+bocci +(your state name here!)", then substitute "+bocce" for "+bocci" after you check all those results. Search engines such as Google give nice summaries from the site, so you can usually tell in advance if you want to go there or not. Google also has "cached" copies of the sites. This means if the person has changed the location of the page, changed accounts (dropped the service, changed ISP's, etc.) you can still see what was on the page! Using the "cached" pages, you can see what "was" instead of what "is"! Sometimes useful! Just a hint... ;-) By the way, the little "+" sign above tells most search engines the results "MUST HAVE" these values in them. In any case, I hope you can find a club and/or court near you. But if not, don't be discouraged! Play with your family and friends. Teach someone else how to play and you'll have an opponent (probably for life!)!

There's little else you need besides the bocci set itself. Maybe a belt or stick or tape measure or neck tie or yard stick or piece of random length string/rope or something to measure the distance of two opposing balls to the pallino. Nevertheless, carrying cases, fancy measuring devices, and other gadgets & paraphernalia abound!


A book I highly recommend:"The Joy of Bocce" by Mario Pagnoni. An excellent book on the game. By far the best I've ever read on the subject. Mario clearly knows of what he writes. He includes a brief history, necessary equipment and accessories - and their sources. Also covered is how to build your own bocci court. Different throwing / scoring techniques are discussed. It's very reasonably priced at just $12.95. Click on the hypertext title of the book above, or have your local bookstore or library get it. It's ISBN # is: 1-57028-044-4. I have no commercial or pecuniary interest with the author, but I do highly recommend it as the definitive text on the game. There are few books about the game of bocce. There are fewer books still that compare to Mario's. Mine is quite dog eared (from re-reads, rule look ups, etc.).

Next, at face value, this appears to be the mother of all bocce sites! Or at least the most 'official' looking and most presentable. This is very tastefully composed, albeit I think the artwork & related text is a bit small for my old eyes, but it's quite usable. I would have centered it and made it about 5x larger! They state on their page, and I quote: "The COLLEGIUM COSMICUM AD BUXEA is the preeminent international organization for the sport of bocce. " For now I take that claim at face value. Regardless, they have a wealth of information on their site. Not limited to some bocce court drawings/sketches. But if you're after actual bocci court photographs, once again, I'll defer to Mario's book - already cited numerous places on this page!

For a fascinating & enjoyable article that provides an overview of some of the various playing styles of the East Coast, click here! You'll see that even within the relatively small geographical area of New York & Philly, etc. I'm sure some could argue "That's not the way WE played...". Not to worry! The rules you played by were likely "ok"! For backyard bocce, the rules are, more or less, whatever you agree to! And same for court games in non-sanctioned play. I've stood by 2 different courts and seen two different sets of rules applied in casual play! Is this a great game or what?!

Check this link out For one version of rules!

Just click on any of these links to be taken to the appropriate site.

The United States Bocce Federation

The Wonderful World of Bocce Association

iBocce - Let The Good Times Roll! Maybe a broken link or two but a good source of info.

To automagically list all the current bocci auctions at Ebay, click here! I check for both possible spellings in the search ("bocci", "bocce"). "Boccie" is seldom used, and I don't believe it's ever correct, though I have seen some people use it. Just remember: The prices you see are subject to change until the auction is over!

For a little blurb about bocci in the Amsterdam, NY newspaper, click here!

Here's a link discussing a recent summer tourney in Amsterdam, New York. Saturday, January 26, 2013 12:25 <<Sorry!>> The host site here has again changed their indexing system. I'll research it and correct the link shortly! This bocce article appeared in the June 11, 2001 edition of "The Recorder" - Amsterdam's daily newspaper. Sorry I missed the tourney!

A nice ad for a bocce tourney in Seattle. This is almost a perfect model for your bocci event. Notice it answers the classical "Who, what, when, where..." type questions. Access to the rules, entry fees, prizes, etc; are all accessible.

And a link to the Italian Festival in Krebs, Oklahoma! My family and myself attended the festival for the first time in the Summer of 2001. We had a great time. As you would imagine, there were many Italian culinary delights, crafts, etc. And YES, there was a bocci court there, and my family and I played a round or two while we were there! Oh, the court was nothing fancy. A maybe 12x60 (or so) swatch of dirt, perhaps graded with a Bob-Cat or some such, with some railroad ties for side boards. It was wicked hot (110° or so), so after a couple of rounds, we decided to seek shelter from the sometimes oppressive Oklahoma sun!
The Italian Festival is always held the weekend before Memorial Day. This the only semi-organized bocci in Oklahoma that I am aware of. There may be some around Oklahoma City. Alas, I'm in the Tulsa metro area. A nice thing about bocci and living in Oklahoma is that we have a v-e-r-y long playing season... about 10 months or sometimes better (depends how "hardcore" you are!). Unlike my friend Paul who enjoys a shorter season in upstate New York. I guess it's tough to search for that pallino when there's 30"+ of snow in the back yard. We'll be going back next year!

Some closing thoughts: In My Humble Opinion, few things can rival a nice summer evening, good friends, a glass of Genesee® or Rolling Rock® (or a 7-UP® or Coke® if you prefer!) and the CLINK of bocci balls. Few things bond (new or old) friendships, can make a boring party a WINNER more than a game or two (or three or...) of bocci! Gotta go easy on the "frosty pops" though! As my cardiologist says: "Don't pickle the pump!" But I digress! It is my sincere hope that you too can come to enjoy bocce for the rest of your life, and that you'll have a long life! I can't quote anything more appropriate than to cite the autograph Mario Pagnoni signed in my copy of "The Joy of Bocce" back in '96:

"May the joy of friendship & the joy of bocce always be yours!"

If you have any questions about bocci, OR if you find any broken links on this page, please feel free to drop me a quick note and ask me your bocci questions, share your comments and make suggestions about this page, etc. I don't know everything about the game, but I can probably find your answer even if I don't know it right off the bat.

Footnote: A final word on bocci/bocce. I've heard a few discussions and counter arguments to answer the question: "Is it 'bocce' or 'bocci'?" So far I haven't seen what I would deem an authoritative answer. If you think you can speak with authority, please do so and e-mail me! Show me the errors of my ways. But for now, it seems to depend on "where you're from". Just as there are different dialects in Louisiana, there are different dialects in New York, Texas, and California, etc. Again, I was born and raised in upstate NY. In the newspaper, in signs at local taverns, etc., it was always "bocci". Yet even on the east coast, I've heard/seen it as "bocce". What's correct? In any case, it's always pronounced the same way, "botch-ee". For now I'll say either spelling is acceptable on this page. I sincerely thank the reader for putting up with me if I annoy you and doggedly stick to one form or another or try to be "bocci-correct" and alternate spellings, or whether I just use whichever spelling whenever! Ditto all of the above for "pallino", "pauline", "pea", "jack", etc. In any case I know what you're talking about... and vice-versa! ;-) Hey! This is bocce! ENJOY!!!!!

Happy bocci and please come back soon!

All quotes attributed to Mario Pagnoni are from his book "The Joy of Bocce" and are used here with his kind permission.

Last Revised: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 21:05