Living Sports in Italy

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By Claudio Ceci – Student Life Helper

There is a strong belief in Italy: you can change your lover, but you never can change your football team. Sport in our country has a long tradition. In many individual and team sports, Italy has achieved great success and representation. Italians love to spend their time watching sports competitions, talking about sports, and playing sports. If you are planning to come to Italy, these are some details regarding this aspect of our culture you might find useful to know.

The sport considered “sacred”, as in many other European countries, is football (“soccer” for Americans!). The Men’s “Nazionale” has won four World Cup titles (1934. 1938, 1982, 2006) and two European championships (1968, 2020), although failing to qualify for the past two World Cup tournaments. The Italian national football team are called the “Azzurri” for their blue jerseys, and they are the third most successful national team, after Brazil and Germany.

Italian clubs are also very successful, especially AC Milan. Although it’s not the most winning team in the domestic league, it has achieved 7 Champions League titles. The “Serie A”, the country’s first-tier league, is followed by hundreds of millions around the world, with Juventus being the most titled team with 36 “Scudetti”: the league was recognized as the most important one in the 90s, when Italian clubs dominated the European scene.

Rome is located in the Italian region Lazio, and both the city and the region have local teams. The city of Rome is divided by a deep rivalry between the most supported team, AS Roma, and the oldest one, SS Lazio. The two clubs play twice a year the so-called “Derby della Capitale”, which are always sold out – down to the very last seat. José Mourinho, one of the most successful managers in the history of sports, coaches the former club, while Maurizio Sarri is the coach of the latter. Roma has won the first (and, so far, only) UEFA Conference League, beating Dutch club Feyenoord 1-0 in Tirana last year.

Every Italian teenager dreams of being a footballer, as “calcio” schools teach kids of every region of the country how to become the next Roberto Baggio, who was the most well-known Italian player.

For students coming to Italy, my biggest suggestion is to go watch a football game of Roma or Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico, as prices have recently dropped in order to make the building be sold out at every game: my recommendation is to pay a little more to get a “tribuna” ticket, as you may find in “curva” some not-very-well-behaved hooligans.

Women’s football has also been becoming popular recently, but it still cannot count on the numbers, revenues and entertainment men’s football achieves every year.

But Italy doesn’t have a tradition of football alone: basketball, volleyball and rugby are very popular as well.

Although not as successful as Italy’s football team, the men’s basketball team can count on some very good players, with the recent 2022 NBA Draft first pick Paolo Banchero ready to take over in the following years. The team has never won a World Cup, but can count two European championships (1983, 1999) and one silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Two basketball clubs, Olimpia Milano and Virtus Bologna, take part in the so-called “Euroleague”, which is the most important club competition of the continent. Rome’s team has, unfortunately, not been as successful as the city’s team went bankrupt some years ago.

Volleyball, here called “pallavolo”, Italy can boast two of the strongest national teams of the world: the men’s team has won four World Cups and seven European titles, while the women’s team has achieved one and three titles respectively. Italy's rugby national team competes in the Six Nations Championship (although being the least successful team in the history of the competition), and has recently earned a spot for the upcoming World Cup.

The country has a glorious tradition in individual sports as well. Bicycle racing (“ciclismo”) was perhaps the most followed sport in the first half of the 20th century; with the “Giro d’Italia” being the second most important competition behind the Tour de France. Tennis is very important as well (with the national team winning one Davis Cup in 1976), alongside skiing, which has a huge tradition in the northern regions of the country.

Motorsports are another trademark that make the country unique. Scuderia Ferrari is perhaps the most famous and successful racing team of the world, although not achieving many positive results in the recent years. Italy hosts two Formula 1 Grand Prix, one in Monza and the other one in Mugello. The latter circuit also hosts the Italian MotoGP Gran Prix, with the titleholder of the competition being Ducati racer Pecco Bagnaia.

Many Italians go to the gym in their free time, as more and more people are embracing a healthy lifestyle.

Running is getting popular as well, although most of the city doesn’t allow for a safe workout: my personal recommendation is to search for parks and practicable zones of the city, as we are lucky enough to be in one of the greenest cities of Europe.

Given sports’ relevance in Italian culture, I hope it could be useful for people who are planning to come to Rome to read the prospective of this insider!