Bocce originated in Egypt as early as 5200 BCE. At that time it was a game of tossing polished rocks. From Egypt it spread through the Roman Empire to the entire Mediterranean. The name comes from the latin word for ball (bottia). The wealthy Romans tossed coconuts. But as time passed and the game became more sophisticated, specialty balls made out of olive wood appeared. In 14th century Venice the game actually became so popular that the clergy outlawed it. Saying it took away from archery practice.

The game also thrived in Britain where they called it bowling from the French word for ball (boule). It was the British style game that made its way to America. The first lawn bowling court in the U.S. was in south Manhattan called, of course, Bowling Green! Now the game is played all over from special courts in the heart of Paris where it is called petanque, to front yards everywhere.

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Rules of Bocce:

These are not the official rules of bocce, but they have been adapted for a friendly front yard game. Pick a flat area in the yard to play. A bocce set is great because the balls are weighted and won't roll away or bounce to high.

Flip a coin to see who starts the game. The winner of the coin flip gets to toss the pallino. This is the small ball in the bocce set. If you don't have a bocce set, use a golf ball. Establish a throw line which can not be passed, stand and toss the pallino about 15 - 25 feet away.

The team that threw the pallino gets to throw the first bocce ball. The point is to get the ball as close to the pallino as possible. (Again you can substitute baseballs or tennis balls. Just number them 1-4, two balls for each number.)
That player steps aside and lets a member of the opposing team toss a ball, attempting to get it closer to the pallino. Each team altenates, tossing as close as possible to the pallino.
Scoring : the closest team receives one point for every ball it has closer to the pallino than the other team. In other words, if Team A has the three closest balls, it will receive 3 points. The second place team receives no score. Play proceeds until one team reaches 21 points.