Attend a soccer match

Italian football match
Roma playing Chelsea. Sadly, Chealsea won 1-0. (Photo by Ryu Voelkel)

Check out the local calcio team in Italy for a truly Italian experience

In this secular age, when 98% of Italians still call themselves "Catholic" but in practice have one of the lowest church attendance rates in the world, soccer is the closest thing in Italy to a common religion.

Italians call it calcio, though they often also use the international term: "futbol." You can look up the match schedule for Serie A (the top tier teams) and Serie B (second tier teams, and usually more fun) at—or just ask around in each town to see if there is a partita di calcio (soccer match) scheduled while you're in town.

Milan's iconic San Siro, officially the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
(True fans—or anyone interested in an insight into Italy's calcio culture—might want to take a guided tour of Milan's San Siro Stadium, home to the tip-tier Inter and AC Milan clubs.)

Top Italian football (soccer) teams

Though, as with any sport, the fortunes of individual trams tend to rise and fall over time, Italy has several teams that consistently rank pretty high in the European league, including (according to 2012 UEFA rankings):

  • 7. Inter (Milan) - The Yankees of Italian football. Full name: Internazionle. Colors/nickname: i nerazzuri, black and blue stripes. Fan seating: curva nord.
  • 12. AC Milan (Milan) - Owned by Silvio Berlusconi. Colors/nickname: i rossoneri; red and black stripes. Fan seating: curva sud.
  • 26. AS Roma (Rome) - Colors/nickname: i giallorossi; maroon with orange trim. Fan seating: curva sud.
  • 30. Fiorentina (Florence) - Scrappy, small city with an impressively talented team. Colors/nickname: viola; Purple. Fan seating: curva fiesole.
  • 43. Juventus (Turin) - The Other Yankees of Italian football; Backed by the Agnelli family of FIAT fame. Colors/nickname: Juve; black and white vertical stripes. (I once overheard an American, absently watching a Juve game on a TV above a bar, ask, "Why are there so many refs on the field?") Fan seating: curva sud.
  • 56. Napoli (Naples) - Biggest team in southern Italy (don't tell Palermo fans I said that). Color/nickname: azzurri; Blue. (Not to be confused with the the Italy national team, also the "Azzurri" in blue.) Fan seating: curva A, curva B... everywhere, really.
  • 58. Udinese (Udine) - Colors/nickname: i bianconeri; white with black stripes. Fan seating: curva nord.
  • 67. Lazio (Rome) Colors/nickname: bianc'azzurro or biancoceleste; white and sky blue. Fan seating: curva nord.

Of course, those are the rankings in all of Europe. Nationally, the teams shuffle out a bit differently, with Juve in first place within Italy closely followed by Inter (subject to change; those two often scuffle for top spot), then Napoli, Lazio, Roma, Fiorentina, Milan, Catania, etc.

What kind of Italian soccer match to attend

All that to-do about rankings is really just grist for the football fanatic mill, meaning more to those who follow the ups and downs of their favorite teams than to the mildly curious.

True, a match between Titans of the game in Milan's San Siro stadium or Rome's Stadio Olimpico can be memorable. However, if all you want is to see a game—any game—it might actually be more fun to go to a match between lower-ranked teams—or, even better, between two Serie B squads.

(OK, I am about to make a comparison to the organization of U.S. baseball, though in reality the soccer system is quite radically different. Depending on performance across the season, Italian football teams can be relegated to Serie B, while others can claw their way into Serie A. It's not a farm system of major and minor leagues and all that. That said, you can very roughly liken a Serie B match to attending a AAA baseball game—which for my money are way more fun than a Major League game.)

Where to sit at a match

The Curva Sud at a Roma game.
Notice how much more into it the Roman fans sitting in the curva sud (foreground) are than the rest of the stadium. (Photo by Gianluca Lavezzo)
Buy a cheap shirt in the local team colors from a street vendor (though see below), head to the stadio, and try to sit along the middle of the field.

The curva, or arc of seats at either end of the pitch, is usually infested by the ultras, the most rabid fans (garden-variety fans are called tifosi). The curva of choice for a given home team is an interesting, but not necessarily the best, place to be. The hooliganism that plagues places like England is not nearly so prevalent in Italy, but it does occasionally simmer over at matches between arch-rivals—like say, Roma and Lazio, who (for now, at least) share a stadium and a decades-long rivalry.

For the record, Roma fans sit in the curva sud (the southern curve of seats), wear giallorosso (which means yellow-red, though the team colors have over the years morphed into more of an orange and maroon), and are supported more by the proletariat, working class, and liberal Romans, while the curva nord is home to the Lazio—colors bianc'azzurro or biancoceleste (white and sky blue)—a sqaud favored more by the upper middle class and conservative elites of the Parioli and Prati neighborhoods.

Similar rules apply at San Siro stadium in Milan for the bourgeoisie supporters of Inter (curva nord) and the working-class fans of AC Milan (curva sud).

When it comes to a rivalry within a city like this—the big annual Roma/Lazio match-up is called the Derby della Capitale; the Inter/Milan showdown is the Derby della Madonnina, Roma and Napoli also have an annual face-off called the Derby del Sole—you can either pick a squad to root for and buy a shirt or scarf to show your support, or you can studiously avoid either color combination and thus avoid the majority of unpleasant encounters with soccer hooligans.

Your choice. That said:

Forza Roma!

Tips & links

Useful links & resources

• Italian football:

• Milan Football San Siro Stadium Tour

• Guide to Italian stadiums:

Where to book Italy activities and experiences

Share this page

Intrepid Travel 25% off


For more info

Useful links
Train tix

Shortcuts to popular planning sections:

Airfares, Cars, Trains, Tours, Packages, Cruises, Lodging, Itineraries, Info, Packing, Prep, Comm

Follow ReidsItaly
Follow ReidsItaly on Twitter  Join the ReidsItaly fan page  Follow Reids Italy Adventures blog