The popular game of Bocci is played all over the Maltese islands, and the pastime is closely related to the French game of Petanque, English Bowls and the Italian Bocce. Variations of Bocci are played all over Europe and it’s believed that the sport has its origins in the Roman period. Migrants from southern Europe who settled in Canada, Australia and The United States took the game with them and it formed an important part of their social scene. Maltese emigrants to Toronto and Melbourne set up Bocci clubs and these formed the hub of the Maltese communities there, together with band clubs and the Church.
There is a Bocci club in almost every village in Malta and Gozo. These clubs are regulated by Federazzjoni Klabbs Tal-Bocci based in Tarxien. As well as watching or playing Bocci, these clubs are a hive of activity in the bar area, and some Bocci clubs serve snacks and even full meals.
Bocci is played on a sand-covered smooth surface, and each team has three players. The jack ball is around the size of a marble and the look like snooker-balls. One team plays with red balls, the other one with blue. The object of the game is to get your team’s balls as close to the jack as possible. Rules do change and vary from club to club, so it’s worth watching a few games before trying your luck.
A particularly popular Bocci club – especially in summer – is Bugibba Bocci Club. Located right on the seafront, this popular venue attracts locals, summer residents and tourists alike. The bar serves a range of very reasonably priced beers, wines and spirits, and there’s seating available on a patio overlooking the sea. The club also dishes up some great bar snacks, sandwiches and hot meals and does a decent Sunday Roast.