To celebrate Football Weekends 50th edition next month, Jim the editor asked me to nominate three of my favourite “old school” stadiums there. Having been at 40 Italian grounds I am undoubtedly qualified to make such a call, and it was quite entertaining coming up with my choices, which I guess true to form are quite eclectic! This is a relatively short piece as it will be incorporated into a much larger Pan European article in the November edition of the magazine, but ahead of publication, here are my picksClick to view slideshow.
Largely the Italian stadiums are either modern, similar in style or full of far too much scaffolding. What some of the grounds lack in outstanding quirky style, they make up with awe inspiring views. Carrarese’s stadium has incredible views of the nearby mountains that appear to be permanently covered in snow but they are in fact merely scarred slopes from the marble mining that Carrara is famed, but spectacularly scarred! In an arch around the eastern flank of Tuscany, Pistoiese, Prato and Arezzo’s stadiums all afford wonderful views too, and slightly further south in the region Siena’s stadium on the edge of the historical centre is eye catching, but has that scaffolding thing in spades, just like the unique location in Venezia, and the picturesque lakeside ground in Como.
There are some real gems around Italy, Bologna and Fiorentina’s external facades are iconic, but if we are looking for more distinctly old school interiors we have to look in the lower leagues.
In the southern reaches of Liguria the coastal town of La Spezia houses one of the great old stadiums of Italy. The local club, Spezia are in Serie B and have been playing at the 10,336 capacity Alberto Picci Stadio since 1919. The old stand is a throwback to another era, and if they have listed building protection in Italy, I hope that it will be preserved forever. The home curva is a thing of beauty too, steeply rising like the mountains behind the stadium.
In Veneto the home of Lanerossi Vicenza Virtus, the Romeo Menti has been home to the various guises of the club since 1935 when it was opened as the Stadio Communale. The current capacity is 12,000, and while the ground has been buffed up over the years, the seated terraces are close to the action, unlike many of the ellipse style stadia in Italy where “curva” are well named but are too far from the action. The mainstand runs the length of the pitch and could have been moved lock, stock and barrel from the old Victoria Ground in Stoke, where doubtlessly the similarity of kit brought them immediately to mind!
The biggest and my favourite of my trio of “classic” stadio is significantly far down the Adriatic coast in the town of San Benedetto Del Tronto. The Stadio Riviera Delle Palme is home to Sambenedettese, perhaps the least well known of the three clubs, and yet with a 22,000 capacity, Vicenza and Spezia’s capacity could fit into this one! The ground is relatively modern, inaugurated only in 1985 but old enough to have a retro feel. Samb have never reached Serie A, and rarely appeared in Serie B but they are always perceived as a sleeping giant, and the size of the stadium, as well as the loyalty of their fans add to that myth, but they continue to languish in the third tier. The stadium has two circular corner walkways like the San Siro to the upper tier of the seated terraces that go round three sides, complimented by a vast main stand where from the very top you can look out to sea as the game progresses.
The stadiums in Messina, Catanzaro and the buffed up SPAL stadium in Ferrara might have made the cut, as would have the now old pearls of Stadio Dorico in Ancona and Stadio Appiani in Padova, but these are no longer in use by the top teams to be considered. Does anyone have any other stadio they’d have included?