The Joy of Bocce Weekly - Special Edition
 In This Issue: North American Bocce Championship 
•   Notes from the publisher
•   The participants
•   The venue
•   The game
•   The teams
•   The results
 Notes from the publisher
The Joy of Bocce Weekly
The FREE weekly Ezine for bocce aficionados everywhere
Volume #1, Issue #40 October 21, 2002
Publisher: Mario Pagnoni Copyright 2002

Special Edition – 2002 North American Bocce Championship

This edition is devoted entirely to the North American Bocce Championship held this past weekend in Highwood, IL. It was my first experience with international style play and the text and photos that follow document my reaction. The rules are much more stringent than we back-yard bocce players are used to, but the skill level and excitement was undeniable. This is the game that promoters hope to see in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing (the Chinese LOVE bocce and have the option of selecting a new sport when the games are held in their country). So, I’ve devoted this issue to broadening my own horizons and the horizons of those readers who have yet to experience the international game. Please REPLY with your comments and questions.

Come visit us often at We have bocce info, merchandise, links to other great bocce sites, and the best selling bocce instructional book in the USA. Order Now @ $12.95 by clicking on the bookcover above.

PLEASE – we are always looking for bocce photos and feedback from all over the USA. We want to connect bocce fans everywhere. You can email ( or snail mail (Mario Pagnoni, P.O. Box 608, Methuen, MA 01844).

 The venue
The North American Bocce Championships (Canada vs. USA), held this week-end at the Highwood Bocce Club in Highwood, Illinois, was an eye-opener for me. I had never witnessed international style play and came away with a new-found respect for the skill involved with this level of competition.

The facility has two outdoor courts in addition to the four indoor alleys which were used for this event. These tournament courts are 10’ by 86’ and feature a synthetic surface that is similar to the material that is used on some high school or college fieldhouse floors.

A couple years back we tried to play bocce at my town’s high school fieldhouse but found that the balls seemed to roll forever as if on a frictionless surface. However, the Highwood court material is textured and also has sand sprinkled atop. The result is the fast-playing and true surface that serious players favor. The material absorbs energy better than our fieldhouse floor, so lofted shots don’t bounce so high. Since international rules prohibit bank shots, the sides are pitched inward slightly to help prevent rolling balls striking the sideboards.

This material is made by the Italian company Mondo, and is installed in rolls much like carpeting. Phil Ferrari of the World Bocce Association is a manufacturer’s rep for the product. For more info contact him at

See photos

 The teams

Each year this competition alternates between Highwood, IL and a Canadian venue. The event draws many top players including Dr. Angel Cordano, a retired pediatrician and admitted bocce junkie who travels the world to compete.

“You have to come to Highwood to witness international play compared to the open rules,” he told me. “It’s the difference between chess and checkers.”

Forty male and female players from 20 – 70 years old competed here in singles, doubles and triples format. In singles (one-on-one) each player rolls four balls. Doubles play (two vs. two) calls for players to roll two balls each, and in triples each plays two balls (requiring that twelve balls are employed instead of the usual eight…and yes, you can score up to six points in a frame). Games are played to a score of 15.

The field was comprised of five American teams and five Canadian, each with three men’s teams and two women’s (four players per team). Teams play SETS which consist of a triples contest, a singles, and a doubles. No player can participate in more than two of these three games. You must win two out of these three matches to win the set. Winners of sets advance to play other winners until an eventual champion is determined. Sometimes play is so even that tie-breakers are needed to crown a victor. Tie-breakers include record against each other, most points scored, and fewest points allowed.

See photos

 The participants
United States Bocce Federation President and tournament organizer Mike Conti covered all the bases, ensuring that the event went off without a hitch and that the participants had a memorable experience. There was good competition, excellent camaraderie, and fine dining too.

When Dr. Cordano was cajoling me via email to come to Highwood to view international play he said “You will watch a young player named Jose who is the best you will see.” If anyone is capable of making this distinction, it would be Dr. C., the talented bocce journeyman.
”The Canadians are very good,” he continued, “but Jose is better, so our teams may hopefully come out on top this time.”

And Jose Botto did not disappoint. The twenty-two year-old Argentine now living in Chicago played near flawless bocce. His raffa and volo skill was exceptional. In this country only six months, the intelligent but soft spoken bocce star aspires to be an Olympian.
“Bocce will definitely be an Olympic sport,” he says in only slightly broken English. “And I hope to represent my country.”

Carmela Ciampittiello is a skillful player from Montreal who also has Olympic aspirations. With only six years of bocce playing experience, Carmela became a quick study after being introduced to the sport by a friend. She honed her skills at Montreal’s Bocciodrome with its four state-of-the-art indoor courts.

As far as qualifying for the Olympic team goes, she knows that there are many talented female players throughout Canada. “A lot will depend on timing,” she says. “What’s going on in your life at the time will affect your concentration and your play.”

Toronto Men’s Team

Cesidio Palozzi
Gianpietro Cellitti
Alfredo Barolomucci
Giovanni Zeppieri
Coach: Tony Colalillo

Toronto Women’s team

Maria Concordia
Margret DiPoce
Silvana Salvo
Rosetta Foresto
Coach: Pat Concordia

Montreal Men’s Team

Salvatore Lopez
Mario Lopez
Orlando Giangrande
Angelo Marandola
Coach: Joe Manocchio

Montreal Women’s Team

Conchetta Rosauri
Olga Ciarletti
Maria Secondi
Carmela Ciampittiello
Coach: Sebastiano Rosauri

Windsor Men’s Team

Americo Rizza
Remo Incitti
George Paniccia

Western US Men’s Team

Dave Canclini
Rick Wagstaff
Ron Jacobs
Frank DeLuca

Western US Women’s Team

Teresa Wagstaff
Doris Perez
JoAnn Jacobs
Virginia Cordano

Mid West US Men’s Team

Jose Botto
Bruno Moretti
Mike Conti
Danny Passaglia
Coach: Joe Giolli

Mid West US Women’s Team

Teresa Passaglia
Lois Conti
Jackie Johnson
Ida Bernardi
Coach: Mario Massa

Eastern US Men’s Team
Angel Cordano
Mike Lapcevich
Mike Grasser
Pierino Gugliemetti
Coach: Tony Battaglia

Check out The United States Bocce Federation web site

 The game
The international game is very different from the bocce most of us hackers are used to. It is highly structured and a bit complicated until you get the hang of it. I think I have the hang of it, and will try to put it in plain English here…{special thanks to Mike & Lois Conti, Joe Giolli, Ron Jacobs, Mike Grasser, Mike Lapcevich, and Danny Passaglia who answered my never-ending questions about the rules}.

First off, the international court has a lot of lines. One is four meters from the end. This line is for pointing and raffa hitting. Raffa is the fast rolling style of hitting as opposed to the aerial volo shot.

For pointing you can have your foot on, but not completely over, the line. Some players walk forward after releasing the ball to ensure accurate momentum in the proper direction. Raffa players use a walk or run-up delivery. They also follow through by continuing forward after releasing the ball. In both pointing and raffa hitting the ball must be out of the player’s hand before s/he crosses the line.

A second line is another three meters forward. This is the volo line. Players use a longer run-up approach when they volo, hence the additional distance.

Two meters farther ahead is a third line which is the minimum distance a raffa shot must travel before it first strikes the ground. In other words, your raffa attempt must be lofted over this third line, then roll the rest of the way to its target.

Finally there is a mid-court line beyond which the first toss of pallino must come to rest to begin each frame.

Let’s call these lines A, B, C, and D respectively. Down at the other end of the court you have lines A, B, and C as well.

International rule makers don’t want the pallino too close to the sideboards or too near the ends. Thus, the initial toss of pallino each frame may not come to rest less than 13 cm from either side board or beyond the A line at the court’s opposite end.

The game is called Punto, Raffa, Volo because you can employ all three shots. There are restrictions though. The international rules committee decided that hitting an opponent’s ball that is near mid-court is relatively easy for accomplished players, and declared the space between line D and the other end’s line C to be the volo zone. If you want to hit a ball that rests in that area, you must do so via volo, not raffa.

You may raffa anywhere beyond that volo zone (the greater the distance the tougher the shot) and you may volo anywhere on the court (volo generally is more difficult than raffa). Also, you may raffa the pallino no matter where it lies on the court {the international pallino is tiny – from the stands it looks like a ping pong ball}.

Players who want to hit another ball away must call their shots. The referee uses chalk to mark the positions of all balls and the pallino. You must call which ball you will hit and whether you will do so via raffa or volo. If you declare that you will raffa one ball and hit another by mistake, the Rule of Advantage applies. That is, your opponent can decide to let the play stand, or put the displaced balls back where they were and remove the raffa attempt from play.

On Saturday one player attempted to raffa his opponent’s ball which was about a foot away from the pallino, but hit his own ball by mistake, driving it to the backboard. Now there were two blue balls at the end and one white ball still twelve inches away from the object ball. I guessed that the white team would let the play stand, but they elected to “kill” or “burn” the rolled ball and return the displaced ball. They didn’t want two live opponent’s balls at the end in case the pallino got redirected there later.

If you call a volo shot, the referee traces an arc 40 cm in front of the ball you intend to hit. Your ball must land within that arc for it to be a valid hit. If not, the Rule of Advantage applies and the other team may either leave the play as is, or kill the ball and replace all the displaced balls to their previously marked positions.

The trajectory for most volo attempts was lower than I anticipated. Players tell me that the lower shot doesn’t bounce as high which means you can be a tad short and still hit your target. Also, the higher the toss the greater the distance the ball travels. Greater distances make for greater degree of difficulty.

Some rules and points of emphasis…

If you hit the backboard without first hitting another ball, your ball is dead and removed from the court. At one point a doubles team had the point and two balls left. The other team was out of balls. Since the pallino was close to the end line where it is difficult to lag without hitting the back wall, player one rolled his ball short (just past the volo zone) so that his teammate could raffa it to the end.

You may not hit the sideboard. If you do, the Rule Of Advantage Applies.

All balls must be in the rack unless it is your turn, and you are about to roll. The referee and opponents, by checking the rack, can easily see how many balls are still to be played.

After you roll your bocce balls you are to move to the other end of the court {this lets everyone know that you have no shots left for this frame}.

I was surprised to see that players are allowed to stay on the court while teammates or opponents play their shots. They might accidentally kick a ball or interfere with play. Officials counter that all balls are marked and can easily be replaced to their proper positions, and that players stand to the side and closer to the end where the shot is originating from so that displaced balls tend to move away from them, not toward them.

You must ask the referee’s permission to come down court to view the positions of previously played balls. Fail to do so and you forfeit one ball.

The referee uses a 70 cm tool for measuring and marking (see photos of the week). If the referee holds this tool straight up (perpendicular to the ground) he’s indicating that you won the point with your last roll. If he holds it in a horizontal plane, that means you didn't.

The tool has a sliding section that can be used to measure distances. Players can ask the referee how far away a ball is and s/he can illustrate the distance by holding the tool up to the players' view.

Displacing another ball even when you are pointing can create a Rule of Advantage situation too. If your ball taps another ball causing it to move a distance greater than the length of the tool (70 cm) the rule applies (with these fast-playing surfaces, it doesn’t take much of a hit to move a ball 70 cm).

Moreover, if your ball moved the pallino just a short distance and caromed off to hit another ball and that ball moved more than 70 cm, the other team has the option of putting the pallino back to its original position, but the displaced ball stays put.

Bersaglio – when a ball is within 13 cm of the pallino or when two balls are within 13 cm of each other, a bersaglio exists. This means you can call your shot and hit either of the two balls to make a legal hit. Also, you can raffa when there is bersaglio no matter where the balls are. Because of this sometimes a pointer doesn’t want to get too close to the object ball. For example, if the ball was 14 cm away and in the volo zone the opponent would have to volo, but if it were 13 cm or closer they could raffa.

 The results
After three days of competition featuring great camaraderie and sportsmanship, the title came down to the USA and Canada’s men’s teams playing triples, singles, and doubles. Canada took the triples in a close contest and USA’s young star Jose Botto won the singles, so it all came down to the doubles. The USA jumped ahead and was playing extremely well. Then the Canadians made a substitution (allowed except in singles, where the starter must finish) and this replacement helped turn the tide with excellent pointing skill. Canada earned a hard fought victory and North American bragging rights for at least a year.

Read Italian? Check the international web site...

Merchandise still available at

Check out the first-rate equipment we offer. The finest measuring devices for bocce (made in UK by Prohawk for lawn bowling, petanque, and bocce) - the finest bocce balls in the world (made in Italy by Perfetta) and the number one selling instructional book on bocce in America - Check them out.
 Check out the merchandise