Play Toss a Pallino, Sip on Chardonnay
They say there’s a first time for everything. For me, it was discovering bocce ball, an ancient sport played since the days of the Roman Empire, and a game I learned to play during a family vacation at Solage. We arrived to the outdoor patio under a brilliant scarlet sunset at Solbar, where we ordered a few small bites and cocktails while our sons Jake and Luke expressed their desire for a bit more activity. Fortunately, beyond the rectangular fire pit past the outdoor seating, we noticed two beautifully groomed bocce ball courts.
Seconds later, our kids were Googling the ground rules of bocce on their iPhones, and determining how to assemble the family into two opposing teams. It came down to dad and son vs. mom and son. A coin was flipped to choose which team would kick off the match by tossing the smallest of the eight bocce balls, referred to as a pallino.
Team mom and son won the flip, and Jake enthusiastically tossed the pallino while I sipped a buttery local Chardonnay and tried to make sense of the game’s instructions being broadcast from a reading on the iPhone. In a nutshell, the dual goals are to a) have one’s ball land as close as possible to the pallino, and b) attempt to scatter the other team’s balls away from the pallino at the same time. Each player gets four tries. A marker is used to keep track of whose balls land where. The first team to amass 12 points is victorious. I’d say it’s more akin to billiards than bowling.
I was up next, so I grasped one of my team’s red wooden balls and gave it a firm toss. And so we passed a lively hour in the bocce pit, resting in between rounds to nibble on shrimp cocktail and frites (the boys), and slurp oysters and Chardonnay (the parents). It was a heap of fun, and I was pleased to learn that bocce doesn’t require any special training or strength.
It must have been beginner’s luck that caused my final toss to scatter our opponents’ balls like a tornado and win the game. We walked away knowing we’d be back for a re-match; Jake and Luke were already planning one for the next evening. I was already planning our return trip, but knew we’d begun a family tradition and would return as seasoned bocce ball players.