My Love of Bocce 30

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One of my good friends and current business partner, Lori, introduced me to one my favorite games a few years when I went to visit her and her husband in Napa Valley.  She called me up out of the blue one day and said, “Hey, you busy next weekend?  No?  Good. Hop on a plane and come out.  We’ve got our league bocce tournament next Saturday.”

napa bocce court

I had no idea what bocce was, but have never needed an excuse to go to Napa, so I hoped on the plane.  It was the best weekend I have ever spent out there, which is a tough list to top.

Typical of a Napa event, the food and wine were out of this world.  It was a “bring your own” event, which in most parts of the States would mean that you threw a few six packs of beer in a cooler and brought some chips and dip.

In Napa, we started with champagne, moved to some of the best wines I’ve ever had, all interspersed with gourmet food.  I was stuffed, and drunk, by noon.  The games went on all afternoon and I was happy to merely be able to stay upright the whole time.

bocce ball close-up

looks like one point for red

So here are the basics of how this game works.  Bocce is basically lawn bowling and is scored similarly to shuffleboard.  One team rolls the small, white target ball, the pallino, down to the other side of the court.  They then throw one of their four balls down as close as they can to the pallino.  The other side then throws balls until they get one closer to the pallino that the opposing team’s closest ball.

It goes back and forth like that until each team has thrown all four of their balls.  The team with the ball closet to the pallino gets a point for that ball and another point for any other balls they have closer to the pallino than the opposing teams closest ball.

bocce lori minnich stevens napa valley

Lori with drink in hand

When I got back to Arkansas, I built a court in my backyard.  To clarify how crazy that idea was, my backyard measures about 80 feet by 20 feet.  The court is 60 feet by 8 feet.  It took two full dump trucks to haul the eight tons of gravel, crushed limestone and sand to make my personal bocce court.

Yea, the resale value on my house might not be looking that great at this point.

Why am I such a fan?  There is no other game where drinking, while playing, is such a good combination.  Some of you might be thinking regular bowling, but no.  Have you ever bowled with a beer or glass of wine in hand?  I doubt it.  Softball?  Please.  Darts?  Perhaps, the danger level there does dramatically increase with alcohol consumption.

Bocce is the perfect outdoor party game.  Easy to learn.  Easy to play.  No large advantage to more experienced players over rookies.  Fun for all ages.  You don’t need to be in good shape or strong to play.

And, you can drink while playing.  Perfection.

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About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

30 thoughts on “My Love of Bocce

  • Phil

    I’m a huge bocce fan myself. And the ease of drinking while playing is definitely a huge reason. It’s also super convenient. While it’s nice to have an actual court, I’ve played just about anywhere. BTW, that your backyard renovation sounds awesome.

  • Christy @ Technosyncratic

    I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation where bocce ball was present. What the heck? I think I need to find more swanky outdoor parties with champagne and wine being served. 😉 It does sound like a fun game, though!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      hell, I need far more swanky parties… if anyone is extending invitations….

  • uner

    ah, never heard such a game before, party seems nice and you were right, alcohol makes most things better

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      thanks for finding the blog — hope you subscribed to the RSS feed, so you don’t miss anything.

  • Debbie Beardsley

    We joined a Bocce league last summer and it was great fun! We didn’t have Champagne but there was a lot of wine flowing. Would love a court in my back yard but am concerned it won’t be as much fun without all the other teams!

  • matt

    I love bocce! In France they call it petanque and I have spent many, many hour playing, usually sober though. Strangest place I ever played was on a cruise last year – they had real grass.

  • Giulia

    Bocce is very popular in Italy! But it’s usually played by the old people :$ (so I have no idea how it works! But as you say, alcohol can help a lot making things easier 😉 )

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      well you should get out there and reduce the average age of participants — and increase the attractiveness quotient with your participation also!

      • Giulia

        Woooow why did I miss your answer? 🙂 I just came back to your blog to look for an old post I’m going to link in the one I’m writing and… you just made my *night* (10.30 pm in Cairo, at home… curfew times!!!)
        Thank you 🙂

  • Cam

    The 4 B’s of summer!! Bocce, Beers, BBQ and Beach… now you’ve got me dreaming of sunshine (great, only 3 more months to go here in Canada!!)

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      luckily, we can all manage the beer “B,” even in wintertime… to get us to summer 😉

  • bethany

    I saw the title and had to check this post out. I grew up playing Bocce ball and I have a lot of great memories of playing with my uncles. Strangely I don’t remember drinking ever being involved but it seems a cigar or two was always present. I also never played on a court, only grass, but I think having one in your backyard is awesome! I’m sure if you decide to sell and an Italian comes to the house you’ll have yourself a buyer. Esp. if you throw some tomato plants out there next to the court. 🙂

  • JustTravelous

    yes, I know Bocce! But yes, when someone mentions Bocce I always think of old French men… haha. Played it as a kid in our backyard! Fun memories! awww, now I want to visit France RIGHT NOW and play some Bocce and drink wine. great! Thanks Michael!

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