This guide provides all of the practical information you need to experience the passion and colour of an Italian stadio. It’s a one-stop shop for all of your questions about travel and tickets, along with money-saving hacks and tips for blending in on the curva.
The guide is organised into discrete sections to help you navigate straight to the information you need. And if you’ve got hints and tips of your own, please drop us a message or add them to the comments.
Where should you go?
Many people begin with an ambition to visit one of the cathedrals of Italian football, such as San Siro in Milan or Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa. Meanwhile, others are in search of a more intimate experience in one of Italy’s provincial cities. Some visitors are squeezing in a game as part of a romantic city break to Florence or Rome, whilst others are on a dedicated football trip, ticking off as many games as possible. The point is that everyone’s preferences and motivations will be different, so there’s no single correct answer to this question.
Our Calcio Travel Notes section contains advice and reviews for a range of specific destinations, but there are a couple of general principles to consider. If you’re going to the trouble of venturing to Italy to watch a match, then I’m assuming you want to experience something close to an authentic Italian stadio atmosphere. With that in mind, arranging your trip to coincide with a derby match (our calcio maps and atlases are a good ally here!) or a match between clubs with an historical rivalry is a good starting point. This page is a useful resource for identifying fixtures with added needle.
Location is critical, particularly if you’re booking a trip in advance of kick-off times being confirmed (more on that later). As a general rule, the north of the country (defined crudely as anything from Rome upwards!) has a greater density of clubs and stadia and superior travel links when compared to the south. This means it’s much easier to adapt your plan to a change of kick-off time if you’re based in, say, Milan than if you travel to Naples.
Finally, a word about Juventus. The Bianconeri are undoubtedly the most popular club in Italy with an enormous international fan base. They have a fantastic modern stadium with excellent sight lines and a wealth of facilities to provide a great ‘customer’ experience. However, the atmosphere at the Allianz is about as far removed from an authentic Italian stadio as you’ll find. The absence of many traditional ultra groups from the curva and high ticket prices means that Juventus offers a more sanitised experience, of the type you might see in the English Premier League.
|Top Tip – depending on your linguistic skills, downloading the Google translate app before you arrive in Italy can be helpful. The app allows you to translate phrases in real time as well as scan and translate text from a photo or live image. Getting a little practice in before you arrive on Duolingo (free website or app) can also help to build a sense of anticipation.|
There are plenty of flight options to get to Italy from airports across the UK. Budget flights into any of the Milan airports (Malpensa, Linate, Bergamo) usually offer good value for money and provide a great base for onward travel. There are occasional bargains to be had for other provincial destinations too. If you’re willing to be flexible, my tip is to use Skyscanner and simply type “Italy” as the destination; this will give you the best prices and destinations for your dates. As with any other foreign trip, avoiding school holidays, if possible, will help to keep your costs down.
Once you’ve touched down in Italy, the transport choice boils down to either public transport or a hire car. The pros and cons of these alternatives are pretty obvious. The hire car is generally more costly particularly once motorway tolls and fuel have been taken into account, but the flexibility may help you to get the most out of your trip. Clearly, if you have several in your party and a willing driver then this could work out to be the cheaper option. Additionally, a car allows you to experience the Italian institution of Autogrill motorway service stations!
The reputation of Italian drivers proceeds them, but in my experience, that’s a little unfair. It is reasonable to say there’s a different ethos on Italian roads, but it’s up to you as the visitor to adapt. And as your driving instructor will have told you, the key to being a good driver is to anticipate what others around you are going to do. It’s rare to see an Italian car without a bump or scrape, though my hunch is that most of these occur during parking, which does seem to be a bit haphazard. The top tip here is to get the excess insurance top-up; do this via a third-party insurer rather than your car hire company and it should cost just £2-3 per day.
Italian railways are cheaper than the UK and no less reliable. It is now possible to pre-book Italian trains via the UK-based Trainline site, which can reduce costs if you’re certain of your travel plans. There are broadly two types of trains available; the slower, shorter-distance Regionale trains versus the faster and more expensive inter-city services. In the latter category, the modern Frecciarossa and Italo trains are fast, comfortable and provide good links between big cities, for example, Milan to Bologna in around an hour. The train journeys themselves tend to be more enjoyable than by road, presenting the opportunity to pass through a diversity of dramatic landscapes, suburbs and small towns.
Public transport tends to be pretty good within Italian cities, whether that’s the metro, trams, buses – or even the bike/e-scooter hire options that are popping up in major cities . If you need to take a taxi, either book through your hotel or try the Free Now or IT Taxi apps.
|Top Tip – most bank cards will charge you a fee of 1-3% for transactions made in a foreign currency. Likewise, the bureau de change will incorporate a similar level of fees into the rates they offer. However, you can avoid all of these fees by getting yourself a credit card that doesn’t charge exchange fees, such as Barclaycard Rewards or Halifax Clarity.|
Exact kick-off dates and times are scheduled in several phases throughout the season. This can happen at short notice; if you’re interested in the first weekend in a given phase you might only find out a week or two before you travel, which can make planning complicated. To make things even more complex, Serie A, Serie B and Serie C have their own uncoordinated schedules for doing this.
Serie A games can potentially take place anytime Friday-Monday on a given weekend. I tend to use Soccerway for planning my trips, though remember that kick-off times will be displayed in your local time, not CET time if you’re looking at home. The Tuttocampo website and app is excellent for finding kick off times for Serie D and below.
If you’re waiting on a specific fixture release, the best place to look for the latest news is the respective league websites (Serie A, Serie B, Serie C) and social media accounts (Serie A, Serie B. Serie C). On more than one occasion I’ve had to adapt my plan based on a curveball kick-off time for my preferred match, so it’s worthwhile thinking through alternatives in advance to mitigate disappointment. Many people use the paid-for Futbology app, which allows searches for upcoming matches based on geography.
“When will tickets go on sale?” is probably the most common question I receive. And the answer is “Later than you might think!”. Match tickets typically go on general sale about 5-10 days before the game itself. The exact on-sale date will usually be pre-announced and may follow a period of restricted sale to club members. The exception to this is the larger clubs, some of whom (e.g. AC Milan) have begun to sell tickets a few weeks in advance of the fixture so it’s important to keep your eye on the club website.
The vast majority of Italian clubs use one of two external ticket sale platforms; either ticketone.it or vivaticket.com. Navigate to the “Biglietti” section of the relevant club website to find out where you need to go to make a purchase. Both platforms offer a print-at-home and digital ticket option making it easier than ever to secure tickets. Although you’re unlikely to need it, both ticketone and vivaticket make physical ticket sales through local outlets, usually tobacco shops or betting shops that are listed on their websites.
Relatively few matches in Italy reach the point of selling out, so there is seldom any need to use a ticket re-selling site. That said if you’re planning to watch Milan, Inter or Juventus or to attend one of the derby games I would advise that you pre-register an account with the relevant ticketing website and check frequently for updates.
On the whole, watching football in Italy remains a very affordable activity. The most passionate supporters tend to locate in the curva behind the goal (there are exceptions, such as Empoli). These sections offer the cheapest tickets and have the best atmosphere. However, it should be noted that in grounds with a classic oval design you’ll be located a long way from the action. Tickets in the curva can be obtained for as little as € 10, but there is often a large pricing differential between those and the seats along the side of the pitch (usually called Tribuna, Distinti or Parterre) which can cost several times more.
|Top Tip – many club websites now offer an English translation, but if they don’t there is another way. Your internet browser may well have its own translate function which can be used to translate any website in real-time. I use Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge on the laptop and Safari on my phone which all have this function.|
Around The Ground
On a non-match day, there tends to be relatively little going on at Italian grounds. The vast majority of stadia are in municipal ownership, so the club’s training facilities, offices and club shop are usually located in another part of town. The key exceptions to this are the small number of grounds that host museums and shops and offer tours, such as San Siro, Juventus, Parma and Palermo.
That all changes on a match day when the area around the stadio comes to life. As kick-off nears, the streets around the ground will begin to fill with the colour and sounds of the descending crowds. I’d always recommend arriving early to absorb the pre-match atmosphere. For smaller grounds, this might be a small bar or café where the locals congregate and which can provide a great place to get chatting with some regular fans. At larger venues, you’ll find a fleet of mobile catering wagons selling beer and sandwiches along with stalls selling (largely unofficial) shirts, scarves, cushions and other merchandise.
Very few Italian clubs provide a matchday programme; Vicenza and Sassuolo are two examples of clubs that do, and these are provided free upon entry. At one time it was common for a free newspaper to be distributed outside of grounds, though these now appear to be dying out in line with the wider decline of print media.
In my experience, Italy is a safe place to watch football. Except for the very biggest clubs, away fans don’t travel in great numbers, partly a reflection of Italy’s vast geography. The away fans that do travel are treated in a pretty regimented way by police who often intercept them at motorway toll booths or railways stations and escort them to the stadium. That said, do keep your wits about yourself and avoid taking the unnecessary risk of displaying club colours before or after a game.
|Top Tip – you’ll find numerous news stands around the city, on street corners and at railway stations. These are the places to buy a souvenir copy of the iconic Gazzetta dello Sport and also to hunt for football-related magazines, stickers and cards.|
Matchday – Getting In
The key thing to remember is to bring some photographic ID, such as a passport. The name and date of birth on your ID document will need to match that printed on your ticket (you will be asked to provide this when you buy it). There will generally be a bag search either before or after you’ve entered the turnstiles; more often than not this is a cursory check.
If you’re going to a game that is expected to be busier than usual, for example, a local derby, I would recommend arriving in plenty of time to get in. Even if an above-average crowd is expected there is no guarantee that extra turnstile staff will be employed, which can lead to long queues.
Finally, access to the stadio was significantly complicated during the height of the COVID pandemic, but happily, all such restrictions relating to vaccination and masks have been relaxed.
|Top tip – check out our detailed destination-specific guides for Milan, Como, Torino, Atalanta, Sampdoria and many more. And if you’re into your Italian football history, there are loads of former grounds that are worth a visit; check out guides for the North, Central and Southern regions. There’s also the Italian football museum in Coverciano, Florence.|
Inside The Ground
An Italian Curva is a sacred place for those who frequent it and you should approach your visit as if you were entering somebody’s home. There are unwritten rules and protocols that you’ll need to follow to avoid upsetting your hosts. The curva is, to a greater or lesser extent, self-policed. You’ll rarely see stewards present and certainly not in the central sections, where the ultra groups are responsible for keeping order.
The curva can be a diverse place. It is synonymous with ultra groups but, as the cheapest part of the stadio, you’ll also find a cross-section of genders and ages in different parts of the curva. Many people stand up and very few occupy their allocated seats; in fact, in some grounds you might struggle to even identify seat numbers. If you’re thinking about joining the ultras in the centre of the curva, my advice would be to start on the periphery and move closer once you’ve weighed things up.
You should be aware that some ultra groups can be quite territorial and there is a small risk that you might receive a hostile reception as an interloper. But it’s just as plausible that you’ll be welcomed like an old friend and furnished with a beer. It’s difficult to tell in advance, but there are two tips that maximise your chances of ending up in the latter scenario.
Firstly, if you do occupy a central position alongside the ultras you will be expected to join in with the chanting and choreographies (it doesn’t have to be perfect, just show some enthusiasm). Secondly, although the choreographies of ultra groups can provide an incredible spectacle, I would advise against taking videos or photos. Ultra groups prefer to exist under a shroud of secrecy, so if you do take photos or video, avoid doing so in a way that means any individuals could be identified.
An excellent way to give something back to the curva is to buy some of the merchandise offered for sale by ultra groups. At most stadia, you’ll find a trestle table set up on the concourse selling wares ranging from stickers and badges to scarves and t-shirts. The funds raised from these sales will generally be recycled into materials for future choreographies.
Outside of the few modern stadia in Italy, facilities tend to be quite poor – although for some people that’s all part of the experience. The seats tend to be battle-worn and dirty (this is where the free newspapers came into their own), the range of refreshments on offer quite limited (with a double queueing system to pay first and collect second) and the lavatories are, more often than not, a horror show. In particular, female visitors should prepare themselves for a no-frills hole in the ground.
If all of that sounds a bit much, then the experience in the Tribuna or Distini areas of the ground tends to be a bit more predictable. People are more likely to occupy their allocated seats and the facilities may be in better order, though you can still enjoy a civilised beer whilst watching the game.
|Top Tip – contrary to the fashion in the UK, relatively few people wear replica shirts to matches in Italian– so buying one in order to ‘fit in’ may have the opposite effect in practice. A more common display of loyalty to the club is a scarf, jacket or t-shirt.|
Thanks for reading! If you’ve got your own hints and tips, please drop them in the comments section. And if you’re looking for some inspiration on which stadium to visit, check out our Calcio Travel Notes section.
Just a couple of things I’d like to add. Not very often have I needed a taxi in Italy but booking one through your hotel may not be the cheapest option. On my recent trip to Pescara my hotel offered to book a taxi to Pescara Training Centre, where the Primavera team were playing, for 40 euros. I enquired at the busy taxi rank at Pescara station and they did the journey, about 12km, for 25 euros.
If you are planning to watch any football in Serie D then I would advise you to buy the Corriere dello Sport on the day of the match. They are the only one of the sports dailies to give any regular coverage of D but most importantly they also give details of changes of venue and matches played behind closed doors (porte chiuse). Each weekend there are usually a number of matches in these categories and the information is not always apparent when looking online.