Rome - Soccer City

The Romans are passionate about just about everything in their city and soccer is no exception. The Fall brings with it the start of a new season when AS Roma and Lazio, the city’s two teams, will each hope for success in the top division of the Italian league, Serie A, and one of the European competitions. There is a fierce rivalry between the two teams with Roma being largely the club of the working class and Lazio a favourite with middle class suburbia. Both teams play their home games at the Stadio Olymipco and if you are a soccer fan you should try to experience a game at this magnificent venue.

The Stadium

The Stadio Olimpico sits majestically on the banks of the Tiber some 2 miles north of the Piazza Del Popopolo. Built for the Summer Olympics of 1960 the 70,000 seat stadium has since been modernised with the addition of a roof.  The Olimpico is not just used for the football but also hosts a variety of other events including concerts, athletics tournaments and motocross shows. As you approach the Olimpico from the Tiber the façade adorned with statues reminds you that you are in Rome but the structure itself is a modern, indeed almost futuristic one and a very imposing sight. On match days the plaza in front of the stadium throngs with excited fans making their way to their seats and buying souvenirs from one of the many traders plying their wares. To get to the stadium take a taxi or walk from the city centre but either way allow about an hour to get there.

Tickets

If you are keen to see a game you can obtain tickets directly from the clubs (www.asroma.it or www.sslazio.it). The big matches often sell out completely so get in early to avoid disappointment. The club sites also list a number of authorised ticket agents in the city. If you have to resort to an unauthorised source for your tickets be sure that you are buying tickets in the areas of the ground reserved for home fans unless, of course, you are supporting the other side! Be aware that such tickets may not be genuine and buying them could land you in trouble with the police.

The Match

There is nothing quite like the atmosphere of this stadium on match day. There is a unique mixture of ardent fervour and hostility with a distinct edge to the atmosphere. The areas behind each goal are a sea of flags, scarves and banners waving joyously and intermittently flares and fireworks fill the air with colour and the smell of cordite.  The supporters of both teams are extremely partisan and it would be fair to say that they largely hate each other and so the local derby is a fixture best avoided in the interests of safety. Choose a match against one of the Italian giants like Juventus, AC Milan or Internazionale for the best occasion and because these big games are often scheduled at night when the atmosphere is really special.  You will see an array of international stars on the pitch and it should be an unforgettable experience. When the match is over the stadium clears quickly and you will find a mass of chanting fans in the streets and on the bridge crossing the river making getting away from the immediate area quite tricky and only possible on foot. Head for the centre of town and either walk all the way back or pick up the metro at Flaminio which is about 30 minutes from the ground.

Souvenirs

You can buy yourself some great scarves, hats, badges and banners outside the ground on the day of the match but for official merchandise visit the club shops in the city. The best Lazio shop is in Via Farini near Termini station and the AS Roma shop is in Piazza di Colonna just off Via del Corso, the main shopping street in Rome.