Unique Sporting Events in Italy

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Annual Sporting Events in Italy

Sports are oftentimes referred to as the great equalizer. The thought behind this phrase is that people from all walks of life, no matter their differences, come together with the common goal of supporting their team or simply enjoying the spectacle. A wonderful aspect of travel is that this idea holds across every country.

Every fall and winter, football fans stream into the gigantic stadiums spread across the United States. Meanwhile, soccer fans cheer and chant in bandstands as they watch their favorite teams in Brazil or Argentina and throughout Europe. Every summer, the quaint streets of Monaco invite the fastest cars on the planet to roar down their tight curves.

Getting a chance to see those most popular matches is often atop the “must do” list of many travelers. For example, when visiting Italy, a sports fan would be sure to try to catch an AC Milan game or one of the other top soccer teams.

However, for the true sporting aficionados, it may be worth doing some research about the unique games that Italy has before visiting. That is not to say that going to a packed soccer stadium in a big city is not worth it. By all means, go and enjoy the game. However if you are looking for something unique to discover in Italy here’s our pick for the craziest sports events in Italy. 

Il Palio: A Sienese Racing Spectacle

Italy’s entire society is steeped in tradition. That history has allowed for some of its more ancient customs to survive for generations. One such event is Il Palio di Siena, which is about as extreme as horseracing gets anywhere on the planet.

Although Il Palio is a race, it is also much, much more than that. Part of the fun of this unique event in Italy in that it does not take place at a stadium or other sporting facility. Instead, the town square becomes a wild, rugged course where thousands of people pack themselves together to watch the performance.

Loud music bounces throughout the crowded streets and the energy starts to build. Ten racers–each representing a neighborhood in Siena–enter the makeshift arena atop their horses and the crowd hushes in anticipation. The actual race tends to last less than two minutes. While that may sound like a lot of fanfare for a short time, it is some of the most exciting two minutes in sports anywhere in the world.

Vogalonga Regatta: Hit the Canals of Venice

Unlike Il Palio, the Vogalonga Regatta–held annually in the canals of Venice–is open to competitors from outside of the neighborhood. It is open to any team of individuals with a watercraft powered by rowing.

The regatta is technically a race but the point is to highlight the extraordinary uniqueness of Venice by inviting people to experience what it is like to row a boat throughout the city. While the event has only been for around 45 years (nothing compared to other Italian sporting traditions), it has quickly become a treasured spectacle, one focused on celebration and fun.

Whether you are a fan of slow boat racing or not, aligning your trip to Italy to be in Venice during the regatta is a great way to live the Venetian experience.

Calcio Storico: Not for the Faint of Heart

Italian soccer emphasizes finesse and skill over sheer athletic talent and strength. That may lead some people to believe that all Italian sports prioritize the same things. In reality, that could not be further from the truth. The Calcio Storico (historical football) is one of the most physically demanding and brutal sports still regularly played anywhere on Earth and it only takes place in June in the beautiful city of Florence.

Four teams participate in the tournament with the final match played on June 24th. Extreme sports fans should circle that date on the calendar twice and be sure to arrive in Florence to check out the frenzy.

The game most resembles a combination of rugby and American football. However, historical enthusiasts may see resemblances between the 500-year-old game and Italy’s ancient past. A time when arenas and coliseums were filled with screaming fans cheering on the gladiators.

How to get to Italy

Make sure that you are eligible to visit Italy. It doesn’t matter if you get tickets to the most excitin hidden race or game if you can’t attend it because of a failure to acquire a visa.

While American citizens can currently enter Italy without prior permission, that will be changing in 2022. Fortunately, the visa-acquisition process will not be cumbersome. Instead, American passport holders will be able to quickly and easily fill out an ETIAS application form that allows them to receive a response in just a few business days.

Once they have a valid ETIAS for Italy, they will be able to start exploring some of the sports that help make it such an exciting culture.

Feature image credit: To Tuscany Australia / Awakening Photo Agency

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