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Watch Sampdoria in Serie A!

Tom Duncan and friends explored the Italian city of Genoa and wondered if the famous football club Sampdoria could reclaim their former glories.

“The train from Milan exited the last of the Apennine tunnels and into the sunshine of Genoa Principe Station. Having previously dined on the delights of La Liga, Bundesliga and the Primeira Liga, we were looking forward to the quality fare provided by Serie A, our appetites whetted by earlier visits to Milan and Bologna.

Our mission for the weekend in Genoa was to explore the city, sample the local culture and cuisine and see whether Sampdoria had the potential to re-create their former glory years of the eighties and early nineties.”

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Genoa tourist attractions

“It was our first visit to Genoa, and Friday and Saturday saw us exploring the city and port area. At first glance, the city looks as if it has been shoehorned into a strip of land between the hills and the Mediterranean. It is a bustling and thriving port and has the largest medieval centre in Europe (Centro Storico).

Narrow alleyways lead up from the port and the re-developed Porto Antico to the Piazza de Ferrari, the city’s main square.

In the upper part of the city, Via Garibaldi is a UNESCO Heritage Site, lined with substantial Palaces such as the Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Blanco which both house fine art collections. North and west of the Via Garibaldi, funiculars and elevators whisked us up to the elegant apartments and villas of the Castelleto area where viewing points provide stunning views across the city and port.

If hungover, I would recommend trying the bracing walk to La Lanterna which is the city’s 900-year-old lighthouse two kilometres from the city centre in the old port area which is the fifth tallest in the world. The strategic importance of the lighthouse is evidenced through the Genoese derby between Sampdoria and Genoa being known as the Derby della Lanterna.

Sampdoria history

Sampdoria, or the Blucerchiati as they are nicknamed because of the blue circled white, red and black hoops, have had a chequered history. The period from 1984 until 1994 was a golden era seeing them gain their only Scudetto in 1990/91 under Vujadin Boškov and winning the Coppa Italia four times.

European success was also achieved with the European Cup Winners’ Cup being brought back to the Marassi in 1990, whilst they also reached the European Cup Final in 1992 only to lose to a Ronald Koeman-inspired Barça  at Wembley. During this period, La Samp had some outstanding home-based talent, including Pagliuca, Vialli, Mancini, Vierchowod, Cerezo and Lombardo.

They also had a tradition of recruiting top British and Irish players, including Trevor Francis, Graeme Souness, Chippy Brady, and Des (you’ll never catch) Walker. David Platt both played for and coached the side during the mid to late nineties, whilst Lee Sharpe also played three games on loan in 1998-99.

Following a period of decline and relegation to Serie B between 1999 and 2003, La Samp stabilised between 2003 and 2008 with mid-table finishes in Serie A.

A further period of decline followed, with relegation in 2011 only to bounce back the following season, since when they have had mid-table finishes. However, their erratic performance is reflected in the turnover of 10 head coaches over the past seven years.

Sampdoria stadium directions

The stadium is in the north east of the city 2km from the city centre in the Marassi neighbourhood. Getting there is fairly straightforward via the Metro, which was built for the 1990 World Cup. There is only one line, so scope for getting lost is kept to a minimum even after a night on the town.

If arriving at the main Principe Station, you take the easterly bound metro for five stops to Brignole Station, or, if enjoying a pre-match drink in the Porto Antico, your station is San Giorgio which is only three stops away.

A single ticket which lasts for 100 minutes costs 1.50 euros, though there are a range of ticket offers available, including a 24-hour ticket for 9 euros for four people.

From Brignole Station, there is a choice of a 15-minute walk alongside the river bed or taking the bus to the stadium. It was a fine Sunday afternoon, and we opted to walk and sample a couple of bars en route. Bar Mosquero was the best pick and provided a refreshing pit stop on the west side of the river bed with outside seating in a tree-lined square. The ultra pubs are all based on the east side, close to the Gradinata Sud.

Marassi stadium

The Marassi has a capacity of 37,000 and has been shared by Sampdoria and Genoa since 1946. It was substantially modernised for the 1990 World Cup and hosted four games, including the infamous Costa Rica victory over Scotland.

The match was a turgid affair. Sampdoria were tentative after the hammering they had received at Lazio the previous week. However, they scored first when Sorrentino, the Chievo keeper, inexplicably dropped a harmless looking cross at the feet of La Samp striker Quagliarella, who couldn’t help but score. The home team went on the offensive after taking the lead, but were shot-shy.

The second half began with a piece of outstanding skill totally out of character with the match, when Roberto Inglese, the Chievo striker, hit an exquisite right- foot volley into the bottom left-hand corner. The 33 Chievo ultras in the Tribune Ospiti celebrated with gusto. Sampdoria pressed until the end and Torreira, the Uruguayan midfielder, was unlucky to see his shot hit the post in the dying seconds.

However, both teams seemed satisfied with a point apiece, and it was clear that the Blucerchiati have a long way to go to emulate former glories.

Genoa bars

Post-match, we were in dire need of a few beers and headed for the Porto Antico, the re-developed port area. The area hosts an aquarium and maritime museum together with a wide range of pubs and restaurants, including One Eyed Jacks, which has a wide selection of beers on draught. We settled for La Goletta, overlooking the luxurious yachts moored on the quayside and enjoyed strong beers and substantial plates of Genoese tapas, which were complimentary.

The Centro Storico has a maze of bars – some delights we enjoyed were Bar Berto in the Piazza delle Erbe, where we had to go easy on the Bulldog, whilst the Scurreria Beer and Bagel just off the Piazza de Ferrari, had a wide choice of craft beers and good food.
After a final drink in the Centro Storico, we hit the hotel to ensure decent shut eye before the return flights on Monday morning.

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This is an edited version of a feature that first appeared in Football Weekends magazine, the fan’s guide for great trips in Europe and the UK. Visit www.footballweekends.co.uk for more details.

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