Guest-blogger Rick Elliott travels to a town in mourning – Carpaneto Piacentino – to watch his beloved Mantova 1911…
I am sat in Ristorante Il Lupo (‘The Wolf’), about 1km from the ground of today’s opponents Vigor Carpaneto. It’s Sunday lunchtime and the four rooms are almost full. Groups of families and friends are gathered, filling their hearts and bellies with local delicacies and wine. There is no menu. It is presented to you directly. I’m almost obliged to accept the only starter, a classic platter of local cold cuts: Coppa Piacentino (a cured cut from the back of the pig’s neck), Pancetta Piacentino and a selection of salami. Everyone else has it but I refuse and just order a local autumnal pasta dish with beans (the original baked beans) and some local red wine named Gutturnio. The place is brimming with local countryside charm on this day of rest and is so very typical of provincial Italy.
Twenty-eight year old Elisa Pomarelli was here a month ago too, along with her long time friend Massimo Sebastiani, enjoying the same Sunday lunchtime tradition together. Sadly, she never returned home that day. Carpaneto Piacentino, a tiny town of around 8,000 inhabitants located 20km south-east of Piacenza, has been broadcast across national TV programmes these past few weeks after a mysterious homicide in the area shook the town and once again resurfaced a continuing problem in modern day Italy. ‘Femminicidio’ or simply ‘killing women’ by men known to them, ex-lovers, partners, husbands, friends, has for over 25 years disturbed the loved ones of, on average, 130 women a year.
After two weeks of being in hiding, Massimo Sebastiani finally confessed to murdering her in an act of rage and later described where the body was. She had sexually rejected him and revealed she was a lesbian. Rather disrespectfully, many Italian media outlets have erred on the side of Massimo and reported him as a ‘gentle giant’ after ‘a misunderstanding of love’.
This small, quiet nondescript town is characteristic of many places that host Serie D clubs. Provincial working towns that rest on Sundays, they can resemble something of a ‘ghost town’, perfect for eating and drinking something local before a game, but not much else to see or do. Serie D groundhoppers should take this into consideration when planning trips. A focus on the territory, not necessarily the town, is sometimes where to look for tourist attractions. This part of Italy is castle territory with some outstandingly well-preserved hamlets and castles that deserve much more than just a passing visit.
To my surprise though, Sunday mornings are market mornings here, where local farmers, producers and shops offer the best of the land. The recent events, if anything, do make communities stronger and that was certainly the feeling as I nosily wandered around the squares. The locals were out in force, nattering away with bags full of fresh, local produce. Many small Italian towns work hard to keep that community feeling running through them. Traditions are proudly kept alive and the territory is honest and true to itself. How could I not refuse a taste and a sombre chat with the locals before lunch?
They also briefly told me about the local team Vigor Carpaneto, a leading light in semi-pro football in the province. This will be their third consecutive year in Serie D, no mean feat for such a small club, who since 2012, when President Guiseppe Rossetti took on the role, have had a meteoric rise from the lowest levels of the Italian pyramid to Serie D with four promotions in six years. Having risen to this level for the first time in the club’s history, they are clearly doing something right.
As are Mantova. It is now four wins out of four after another victory on the road. A young-but-talented Vigor fought valiantly for an hour until a moment of magic, or luck some would say, from Filippo Guccione breached the defences. Cutting back inside onto his favoured left foot, the ex-Pro Sesto attacker whipped in a low, diagonal cross from the right that missed everyone and swerved just enough to land in at the far post. The 175 strong away support went berserk as Guccione raced towards them.
A second bookable offence, and subsequent red card, for Vigor’s Confalonieri was quickly followed by a free-kick special from Gigi Scotto. This took Scotto’s tally to five for the season, after his four-goal haul against Lentigione last week, and should have finished the battle for the afternoon.
But as in previous games, silly errors cost Mantova a clean sheet and brought their opponents back into the game. Vigor’s Giacomo Rossi had the simplest of finishes after a rush of blood from Mantova’s goalkeeper Adorni saw him 40 yards out of his goal. And another error from Adorni nearly saw Vigor snatch an equaliser. But the 10 men couldn’t quite force enough pressure and the final blow came ten minutes from the end with a free header from a Guccioni corner to send the slightly inebriated, and once again wet, away fans home happy.
Another test passed against a dogged and spirited Vigor side, who shouldn’t have too many problems over the course of the season despite a poor start. Guccione and Scotto are clearly showing they are a class above the rest and with the experienced Christian Altinier (currently injured) to come back into the attacking mix it’s hard to see how teams at this level will stop them.
Another great day to remember.
Teams: Vigor Carpaneto 1-3 Mantova
League: Serie D Girone D (Italian 4th Level) Matchday 4
Stadium Info: Stadio San Lazzaro, capacity 1100 (350 away)
Time & Date: 22 Sept 2019, 15.00
Attendance: circa 400 (175 away)
Prices: €10 ticket, €3.50 beer
Tourist Info: Grazzano Visconti and Castello di Gropparello are stunning real life Medieval hamlets. Castello Travazzano, Magnano and Ceretto Landi are small private castles that can’t be visited but worth seeing from the outside for photographers. The Via Francigena passes through the area and there is also a ‘Wine and Local Products of the Piacentine Hills’ route.
In April, an important Spring Wine festival is held, and has been since 1676, and in the first week of September a local food and wine festival is organised. Wines to try include Gutturnio, Bonarda, Barbera (Red) Ortrugo & Malvasia (White)
Travel Info: There is no way of getting there with public transport on Sundays. Taxis from Piacenza or Fiorenzuola train station. Car is the best option here.
Next stop in 2 weeks: Forli
Sidenote: A final word on another sad death closer to home. Mantova’s longest surviving testimony to football in the 1940’s and the war, Iramo Vanz, died last week at the age of 95. A striker in his day, he made his debut in 1942 at the tender age of 17 and played until 1947 where he moved to Cesena. After ending his career he became a radio journalist commenting on his beloved Mantova, gaining further popularity through his wit and insight into the beautiful game. He also worked as a journalist for the newspaper Corriere dello Sport-Stadio and was the provincial vice-president for CONI, the organising body of Italy’s amateur leagues.
RIP, Elisa e Iramo
This article is part of a regular series following Mantova this season. If you missed the trip to Sammaurese, catch up here!