Italy teams collage

Four-za Italia! – Four games in central Italy

There are some beautiful cities to explore and wonderful clubs to visit in the centre of Italy. It is a football mad country and no more so than here – as we took in four games in five days earlier this year.

Bologna

We start our tour in Bologna. Make sure you allow some time for basking in the splendours of the Emilia Romagna capital, which truly is a beautiful city, and famous for the quality of its food.  The walk from the centre to the stadium is 45 minutes to an hour depending on whether you speed walk or amble!

The Renato Dell’Ara stadium has a neo classical facade, with its iconic tower visible to all.  It doesn’t matter where you sit, the view is brilliant from any seat inside this wonderful stadium. It has real character and charm.

The game itself was a let down, a ‘classic’ old Italian fixture with Torino in town, but both were languishing in mid-table. It had 0-0 written all over it! However, in the last minutes of the game Toro decided to have a go, a player took a tumble, and the ref pointed the penalty spot! It was duly swept home, and the points were headed north.

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Ancona

While TV has changed kick off times and dates the world over, a traditional Sunday afternoon game in Italy is the real deal and our journey continues down the Adriatic coast in Ancona.

It was a muggy afternoon with light cloud cover by the time we set off on the seven kilometres trip to Passo Varano where the stadium is situated. It is one of the most out of town stadiums anywhere. Stadio del Conero has been the home of Ancona since 1992, when halfway through the club’s inaugural Serie A it opened with a thumping 3-0 win over Inter Milan! It has largely all been downhill since then. They presently reside in the third tier, Liga Pro.

Ancona were playing a side they are ‘friends’ with – SPAL, who hail from the city of Ferrara. It was an extraordinary sight, fans of both teams had already lunched together in the city, and the love-in continued pre-match with representatives of both sets of fans walking to the centre of the field, bearing large flags, and then shaking hands and embracing to rapturous applause and singing.

The game itself transpired to be the most entertaining of the quartet! A proper contest unfolded with SPAL out of the traps early, leading 2-0 before Ancona had really got going, but they gradually clawed their way back into proceedings. Having pulled a goal back the match reached a crescendo with a penalty award. Alas, the keeper saved it and the matched ended 2-1 to SPAL.


Modena

After an extra day in Ancona it was time to head slightly further north to Modena.

All cities in Emilia Romagna, and indeed most of Italy, are lovely, and Modena is no exception. Here you will find the home of Ferrari for car lovers, as well as Luciano Pavarotti’s home town. Parco Novi Sad is an enormous parkland on the edge of the centre of Modena, and as luck would have it, right across from the stadium.

The stadium, the Alberto Braglia is no more than a 10-minute walk to the right of the railway station.

Commendably for a Tuesday night fixture, visitors Perugia had more than 200 fans at the game. Modena had just sacked Hernan Crespo and the club were in need of the points, languishing in the relegation zone of Serie B, the second tier. You have to feel for Modena, their Alberto Braglia has been hosting Serie A football for a number of years, Sassuolo, then Carpi, but only fleetingly a number of years ago, Modena! It is a well appointed and modern all seated stadium. Modena won rather impressively, 3-0, but they failed to build on the Perugia performance and were relegated to Liga Pro.

Our final game was Reggio Emilia, the city famous for being the home of the Italian flag! This time it was a match in Serie A for Sassuolo v Sampdoria. The Stadio Città del Tricolore, or Mapei Stadium as the sponsor would insist, is on the outskirts of Reggio Emilia. The stadium itself is very modern, a blue print for future developments with a shopping mall, restaurants, multiplex cinema and a huge gym.


Sassuolo

Having considered Sassuolo and Sampdoria as great entertainers, it will come as no surprise it ended 0-0! But a harsh first half red card made Samp more reluctant to attack at times, and despite Sassuolo giving it everything they couldn’t find a way through.  It was an entertaining goalless draw, and while Serie A had served up just one measly penalty in 180 minutes, the lower league action had brought six goals in the same period.

So where will you head to see Italian football this season?

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This is an edited version of an article by Jim Rendall in Football Weekends magazine, a fan’s guide to football trips across Europe.

Visit www.footballweekends.co.uk

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