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The birth of Tennis in Florence

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The birth of Tennis in Florence

That modern tennis was born in Wimbledon is a fact everyone knows; however, it isn’t as known that the term 'tennis' was used for the first time in Florence where, already in the 14th century, people played ‘pallacorda’, the main ancestor of this racquet sport. Rules and instruments were quite similar to those used today in squash.

The term 'tennis' does not have Anglo-Saxon origins as many of you might expect, but rather French roots. First things first! In the manuscript 'Chronicle of Florence' by Donato Velluti, the event which marked the invention and spread of the term 'tennis' is described, namely the visit of some French knights to the Tuscan capital in the year 1325. These gentlemen used to warn their match opponents that the ball was coming by shouting 'tenez!'- a word which over time and passing the Channel was modified until it reached the definitive form of 'tennis'.

‘Pallacorda’, as well as tennis and similar sports, have retained a widespread  popularity in Florence: just think that Sferisterio delle Cascine, the tennis field used, still exists and two more - one at Cure and the other one outside Porta a Pinti - survived until the end of the nineteenth century, overtaken by various regulatory plans.

As you have understood by reading this anecdote, the city of Florence has been a pioneer in sports activities and not just tennis! Do you know the 'Calcio Fiorentino', the sport that was already played in Florence in the fifteenth century? It is the ancestor of modern football and every year, in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, teams challenge each other ruthlessly in a truly adrenaline-filled historical re-enactment!

If you are fond of sports and physical activity in general, we recommend taking part in our 'Florence by bike' tour to explore the 'Pearl of the Renaissance' in an alternative and ‘green’ way!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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