Florence has become one of the most popular tourist spots in Italy. As much as the economic crisis is still affectingthe traveling industry, the stream of tourists that arrive in Italy everyday shows no sign of these problems. In fact, next to Rome and Venice, Florence is becoming one of the most popular tourist sites in Italy. Maybe that explains why even with the chill in the Florentine air, the line that arrives with tourist season for entering the Brunelleschi-completed “Duomo” is still making its way around the side of the church. As the Duomo reigns as the biggest attraction on the religious front, in sports, “C’e’ calcio!” Or, in sports, there’s only soccer. Not to be confused with, of course, “football Americano.” For the Italians, soccer is referred either as “football” or “calcio” so when we mention Holy Cross’ Crusader football team, for example, tacking on the “Americano” after is of utmost importance to avoid one of those confusing cultural misunderstandings. On Sunday, accompanied by our University director, Elisa, we headed to an exciting afternoon soccer game at “Lo Stadio,” the beautiful stadium of the “Viola Fiorentina.” Interestingly enough, Florence’s colors are also purple, so don’t hesitate to fill up your backpack with some of your Holy Cross attire because you will surely fit right in on a game day. As we made our way around the large complex, we could hear the players’ names being announced, and I tried to perk up my ears to hear the famous Mutu, #10, or Gilardino, #11, my house-sister’s favorite player. Just two years ago, her mini-soccer league was invited to stand on the field during the 15-minute “intervallo” (half-time) and take pictures with the players. She stood next to one of the best players, Gilardino, and so, when she heard I was going to go to the game and I hadn’t bought any proper “viola” sportwear, she gave me her Fiorentina scarf to be a true fan! And to give my best to Gilardino, of course!
Our seats were in the section that received the direct sunlight, and as Sunday was one of the nicest days in Florence we’ve had since before the winter cold, it was prime soccer viewing. Each half runs for 45 minutes with a 15-minute “intervallo” in between. During the first half, I sized up the stadium, which Elisa had explained to us. Although the shape appeared to be an oval, it was designed to be a “D,” representing “Ducce” or the ancient Duke that ruled the city. There were four different fan sections: the “Curva Fiesole,” populated by the “pazza” (crazy) fans that stand on their feet and cheer Fiorentina chats throughout the game; Curva Ferrovia, the somewhat more tamed version of the Curva Fiesole; the Maratona, our lovely section where the fans remain seated; and the Tribuna, the V.I.P. section. In between our section and the Curva Ferrovia was a boxed-in section for the opposing team. What I didn’t realize at first was that these fans were actually locked into this space because of the incredible violence that often results from the crazed soccer fans, particularly because the soccer stadium is rarely a place where you will encounter many women. With “paralacchie” (Italian curse words) flying left and right, soccer brings all of the Italian men together, which made for some amusing eavesdropping on our part since it was just we ladies at the game. The “ghiabotto,” as the caged is referred to as, is the only stand where the opposing team can get seats. If the opposing teams’ fans don’t fit into those seats, they cannot come. Even more incredulous was towards the end of the game, the announcer actually came over the loudspeaker and announced that the doors to the “ghiabotto” would not be opened until one full hour after the game when all of the Fiorentina fans would be safely clear of the stadium and the Senese (from Siena) fans could leave in peace! And this was considered a peaceful soccer game! Mamma Mia! The true action of the game didn’t start until the end of the second half (apparently, from what we overheard from our surrounding male neighbors, both teams were playing unusually poor). But, the famous Fiorentina team didn’t let their fans leave without at least one exciting feat. As the players eased the ball down the field, with their agile feet tricks, Mutu got the ball and made the goal to make the score 1-0 for the Fiorentina! In my excitement, I found myself on my feet with all the surrounding Italians, hooting and hollering “Bravo!” just like a soccer regular. Overall, it was a great day, and another interesting Italian learning experience. It’s a good thing that they don’t include foreigners in the mix of the “opposing team” or else my first soccer experience might not have been so pretty. But then again, we’ve been here long enough to know how to blend in with the Italians. Ed allora, forza viola! (And so, go purple!)