The early Egyptians are believed to have played a version of the game. A painting of two boys playing a Bocce-style game was found in an Egyptian tomb dated to 5200 B.C.
From Egypt, the game made its way to Greece and then to Rome. Early Greek physicians advised patients to play Bocce as therapeutic exercise. Roman soldiers played a game like Bocce during the Punic Wars in the Third Century B.C., using stones instead of balls. Later, the Romans played the game with coconuts they brought back from Africa.
During the Middle Ages, Bocce was banned by both kings and the church, saying that it took people's attention away from the military or led to gambling.
Legend has it that English Admiral Sir Francis Drake was playing Bocce when he was told that an attack by the Spanish armada was imminent. His response: "First, we finish the game, then we have time for the invincible armada."
Information courtesy of Outside In Games, LLC.