Many fans of Italian football in the UK came to the table when a bold move by Channel 4 brought Serie A into our homes in 1992 for free. The arrival of Paul Gascoigne inspired the idea, and when they aired the very first game, Sampdoria v Lazio, it was a 3-3 belter of a game.
So whether you are a novice Italian fan, or a hardened Ultra, pour yourself a big frothy cappuccino, get a pile of papers and imagine you are sat at a cafe table just outside the Pantheon in Roma as we offer advice on a trip to Italy!
How do I get to Italy?
Obviously the quickest way to get to Italy is by flying. An extraordinary array of destinations are available, particularly flying from the many London departure points. The bigger “hubs” Milan (Malpensa, Linate, Bergamo), Roma (Fiumicino or Ciampino), Napoli, Pisa, Bologna, Venezia and Verona will always be available and hopefully there will be a sprinkling of routes to the smaller airports in Genoa, Trieste, Treviso, Pescara, Perugia, Ancona and Firenze.
Direct flights to more southerly cities than Napoli will prove tricky, but if you are headed for the wonderful attractions of Puglia, a connection to Bari will get you there, or a train down the coast from Bologna, Ancona or Pescara. Similarly, if you are thinking of Reggio Calabria or Sicily, connecting flight to Catania would work, or a train south from Napoli.
If you are not in any hurry or thinking to make for a multi-nation trip and tailor it around games in a variety of lands, the train is another option with stopovers, or a lengthy seat/bed on a night train via France or Belgium/Germany.
Where do I stay in Italy?
That depends on which area of the country you wish to concentrate. There are a variety of centres where you could unpack your stuff in one room and use that city as a base to get about. Milan is cheaper to stay in at the weekend and offers a huge range of hotels close to Milano Centrale station. This means it’s easy to take the train to the likes of Brescia, Bergamo, Monza, Piacenza and Cremona. Bologna is another fine option, and it is famed for its culinary dishes, but it is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination and prices can reflect that.
Alternatives for a slightly cheaper stay is Modena or Imola. From Bologna you can easily visit Sassuolo or Reggiana, Modena and Parma to the north, or Cesena, Ravenna, Forlo, Imola or Rimini to the south.
Roma isn’t so great for travel outside the city to games as there is a dearth of top clubs aside from the capital duo within an easy 60-minute train ride, but Benevento isn’t too far. The abundance of accommodation and all year round tourism in the capital mean the prices are generally high at all times be it during the week or weekend.
Pisa is a great base for Tuscany. Not only is the airport minutes from the town, Livorno, Lucca, Empoli, Siena and Firenze are all easy to get to as well as the home side's stadium being near the Leaning Tower
How do I travel around Italy?
In Italy, the railway services are fabulous, and the variety of options in terms of speed of train is also extraordinary. If you are going for a lengthier trip the Frecciarossa or Frecciabianca (fast trains) are always worth booking in advance as the prices rise like airline seats as they disappear. However, if it is just a slower regional train, buying on the day doesn’t affect the price.
Just about all major teams are in a town or a city with a railway station, one or two exceptions exist, one in Umbria is third tier Gubbio, and another being Giana Erminio from Gorgonzola near Milan. Buses would be required, and they can be more tricky to navigate.
Serie A normally runs from September to May, but that’s likely to get altered slightly with the imminent need to accommodate a winter World Cup. The league has 20 teams. In normal times there are usually occasional Friday night fixtures, three separate kick off times on a Saturday and Sunday, together with a Monday night game. So a long weekend could, if you were keen, bring you three or four top flight games.
That number could increase if you factor in the second and third tiers Serie B and C. There is usually a Serie B fixture on a Friday and a cluster of games in the afternoon on the weekend and maybe a Sunday night game too. In the third tier, they tend to have one game from each of the three divisions on a Saturday night, with the remainder of the games split between 2pm and 4.30pm kick offs on the Sunday, plus one solitary Monday night game.
Serie A price examples
Two nights accommodation in Milan in a double / twin room including breakfast and match ticket costs from £115 per person *
Two nights accommodation in Rome in a double / twin room including breakfast and match ticket costs from £129 per person *
Two nights accommodation in Naples in a double / twin room including breakfast and match ticket costs from £139 per person *
Two nights in Turin accommodation in a double / twin room including breakfast and match ticket costs from £175 per person *
* We reserve the right to make any price changes. You will receive a confirmed price when booking. Read our recommendations for, among other things, flights, extra nights and transfers.
How do I buy tickets?
The opportunity to buy tickets for Italian matches has improved considerably in recent years but you can only buy the tickets shortly before the start of the match. The Italian Football Association has been prioritising safety issues for several years. All match tickets are personalised and you must at least enter your passport number when buying football tickets. Some clubs also require you to enter your social security number and sometimes you also need to provide a copy of your passport.
Getting tickets on your own for top matches (Roma v Milan, Lazio v Juventus, Milan v Juventus), derby matches (Roma v Lazio, Milan v Inter) or title deciders is basically impossible. If you are going to watch matches in the lower divisions, the demand for tickets is much less and here you can either buy via the club's website or outside the stadium on match day.
If you want to avoid having to keep track of all the rules around certain teams and top matches, a tour operator like Nickes.Com is your best option. We work directly with all the major clubs in Serie A as well as officially appointed ticket partners for various Italian clubs. 100% safe and secure!
What is an Italian matchday like?
Tighter ticketing and security checks have made the grounds safer, but it’s been at a cost of losing a little of the edgy ways of the past. Argentina and Italy are closely linked through mass immigration over a century ago now and they were very similar in terms of atmosphere in the stadium. It is still a wonderful and passionate experience inside an Italian ground, but it’s just a lot less angry but that is no bad thing. Who wants to fret about trouble breaking out, or having to run the gauntlet at the end of the game?
You’ll always be able to grab a beer or a snack from a stall inside any Italian ground, or a van outside, but once into the stadium, the price of your ticket will determine where you have chosen to sit or stand. The Curvas (behind each goal) are the areas of the stadiums with the best atmosphere, these are the cheaper tickets and home to the loyal fans and Ultras.
Try an afternoon amongst the true fans of smaller clubs like SPAL, Cosenza or Hellas and you’ll be blown away by the noise, passion and pageantry. The bigger the club, the slightly more sterile the atmosphere has become. That said, you’ll still get a wonderful atmosphere in the San Siro or at Juve. The further south you go, the greater the passion grows.
If you are looking for a more sedate seat but still be engaged in the action, the Gradinata is the next best option, this is usually the open stand or terracing opposite the main stand. The best view is from the covered main stand, known as the Tribuna. It is more expensive but, if it’s a hot or a wet day, this section is the only area that will save you from a soaking or heat stroke!
One thing to note, unlike in the UK where turning up 20 minutes before the start is considered early, going to the ground in Italy is still an occasion, a chance to catch up with friends who they only meet here ahead of the game.
So there you have it in a nutshell, the world of calcio is a beautiful thing. It’s a great country, dripping in history, culinary delights, wines et all, if you go, you won’t be disappointed.