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Amusements Of The Florentines

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

The most remarkable, and the most expensive diversion peculiar to the Florentines, is the Principi di Calcio. Here the flower of the Florentine youth divide into two parties, distinguished by the red and green, and each party chooses a prince eminent for birth and fortune. Each prince chooses officers of state, establishes a house-hold, and keeps a court; receives and despatches ambassadors each o the other ; gives audience, appoints a privy council, who debate upon the serious affairs of state, the affronts received, or the offences given by each other's subjects, and the proper means of resenting or covering these offences. After some time spent in negotiation, in which all the forms of court policy are duly observed, war is at length resolved upon ; prisoners begin to be taken on both sides : these acts of violence are formally complained of, are owned or disavowed, according to the degree of evidence the enemy have to produce ; but at length out comes a declaration of war. This opens a new scene : the secretaries of state and of war are busy in procuring intelligence ; secret correspondences are established, and the private advices received are openly read at court. These are generally what may be called "Scandalous Chronicle," and contain satirical anecdotes, in which the characters of the principal persons in town are humorously taken off The day on which the imaginary princes are to determine their differences by combat, is as eagerly expected as if the fate of kingdoms was to depend upon the decision. The battle is a game like football, with this difference, that the ball is struck by the hand instead of the foot. In a spacious place the boundaries are fixed on each side, a day is appointed, and the combatants, headed by their respective prince, and distinguished by the ribbon of their order, red or green, come to the place of rendezvous, all richly dressed, and mounted on the best horses that Italy affords. Being assembled, they march in military order over the ground, and then, ranging themselves in order, they dismount and take the field, amidst the acclamations of an inconceivable multitude of people, with trumpets, kettle-drums, and music. Then each party advancing near the middle of the ground, the ball is thrown up between them, and the engagement begins, in which great agility and dexterity is shown, and some hard blows given on both sides ; but no exceptions are to be taken, victory is to be determined by the ball, and whichever side is fortunate enough to press it over the bounds of the enemy, is instantly declared victorious. An universal shout ensues ; the conquered prince retires ; the other keeps the field, till, having recovered breath, and the disorder which the contest necessarily occasions being over, the victors remount their horses, and march back to court in the same military order they advanced ; a most sumptuous entertainment is provided, and a ball given to the ladies at night, in which none but the victorious combatants are permitted to dance. Thus ends, about Shrovetide, an entertainment that employs the greatest families in Florence most part of the winter.

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