Calcio Storico is the sport to end all sports.
Notorious for both its brutal violence and historical importance to the city of Florence the game is essentially a hybrid of MMA, football and rugby.
Thought to have originated in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, Calcio has been around since the 16th century and remains a beloved tradition.
It’s believed to have emerged as a revival of Harpastum, a ball game created by the Roman Legions.
The aim of the game is relatively simple, two teams of 27 players, known as Calcianti, attempt to get the ball into the opposing team’s goal.
Punching, kicking, rugby tackles and pinning down are all allowed, but not sucker punches or kicks to the head.
A match lasts 50 minutes but there are no breaks and no substitutions making this one of the most intense sports to play in the world.
Back in the day, only the richest of the rich had the pleasure of beating up their pals while playing Calcio. Popes Leo XI, Clement VII and Urban VIII all indulged, famously playing in Vatican City.
Nowadays you’ll find people like Ernesto Papa, an MMA fighter lacing up. Serious respect for anyone that tries to tackle him.
Many people will be shocked to find that nobody is actually paid, the sport has remained amateur, and is embedded within the cultural makeup of Florence.
Fabio Selvaggio, who has played for Bianchi di Santo Spirito, one of the four Calcio teams, detailed his experience with the sport, which started at a young age.
He told ESPN: “I went to my first game when I was 8 or 9,
“I had a soccer coach who played for the Rossi. He took me along to watch, but I didn’t know what it was beforehand. It left a really ugly impression on me.
“I had no idea that I was going to see people taking punches, getting kicked to the ground. When I saw my coach struggling, I started to cry. I was yelling at my dad, ‘Take me home!’”
The game is as violent as it is epic but Selvaggio went on to urge viewers to look past just the fighting and appreciate Calcio’s lighter side
“I have seen some beautiful moments when they follow the rules correctly,” he added.
“Some wonderful scenes, like a footballer on top of his opponent, who had him pinned down for a while so he couldn’t move, offering him a bottle of water. I’ve seen that many times.”
We’re seriously considering a trip to Florence for the next one. Who wouldn’t want to watch this?