Calcio – football, or soccer – is Italy’s national sport, and enjoys a big following across the country. It’s usually possible to get tickets to see one of the top sides – as long as they’re not playing each other – and it’s one of the best introductions to modern Italian culture you’ll find.
Since World War II, Italian football has been dominated by Internazionale and AC Milan (of Milan) and Juventus (Turin), who have between them won the scudetto or Serie A (Italy’s premier division) 54 times. It’s a testament to the English origins of the game that AC Milan, as well as another big club, Genoa, continue to use anglicized names, and to sport the cross of St George in their insignia. Unfortunately, the other thing that has been copied from the English is hooliganism, which remains a problem in Italian football, along with a latent degree of racism, and, perhaps most notoriously, corruption – the country still hasn’t forgotten the match-fixing scandal of 2006 (“Calciopoli”), and allegations regularly resurface at the highest levels. Juventus, AC Milan and Inter remain the top three teams, although the two Rome clubs, AS Roma and to a lesser extent SS Lazio, regularly do well, although Lazio’s star has faded in recent years and their fans are perceived as among the worst examples of Italy’s right-wing lunatic fringe. In Tuscany, Fiorentina reckon themselves a big club, while in the south Napoli are beginning to relive their Eighties “glory days”, when they were led by Diego Maradona, although they still struggle to fill their giant 80,000 capacity stadium. We’ve given details of the big city clubs in the Guide, but wherever you are, grab one of Italy’s three sports papers – Gazzetta dello Sport, Corriere dello Sport and Tuttosport – to see what’s on.