Unlike bowls, bocce is played on dirt courts of approximately 20 to 30 metres in length and approximately 2.5 to 4 metres wide, and has wooden boards surrounding the court. Bocce bowls are made of brass, and unlike lawn bowls they are spherical and have no inbuilt bias (they will roll a straight course). Bocce courts are also equipped with surrounding wooden boards of approximately 15 centimetres in height.
Like bowls, a game can be contested between two players, or two teams of two or four. In any case, a match is started by a randomly chosen side being given the opportunity to throw a smaller ball, the jack (also called a pallino in some areas), into a zone near the other end of the court of about 5 metres in length (ending 2 metres from the end of the court). If they miss twice, the other team is awarded the opportunity to place the jack anywhere they choose within the zone. In any case, the side that places the jack is given the opportunity to bowl the first bocce bowl. Once the first bowl has taken place, the other side has the opportunity to bowl. From then on, the side which does not have the ball closest to the jack has a chance to bowl, up until one side or the other has used their four bowls. At that point, the other side bowls its remaining bocce bowls. Like lawn bowls, the team with the closest bowl or bowls to the jack is awarded one point for each bowl that is has closer to the jack than the other side. The contest continues until one team scores 13 points (though this can vary regionally).
As well as the standard rolling bowl, in which the balled is rolled all the way along the court, players are permitted to throw the ball in the air in an underarm action. This is generally used to knock either the jack or another bowl into a more favourable position. Tactics can get quite complex when players have sufficiently control over the bocce bowl to land or roll it accurately.
As well as the traditional game, there are several variations that omit the competitive aspect and are essentially solo accuracy contests of bowling and throwing.
Collegium Cosmicum Ad Buxeas is the international organization for the sport of bocce, based in Rome, Italy.