In America it’s known as soccer. In Europe, it’s football, or the ‘beautiful game’. And if you’re staying in Florence, then you owe yourself a visit to a Fiorentina game, Florence’s football team. Known to their fans as Viola, they play their games at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on the east side of the city center. If you do decide to go, be prepared for an exhilarating night of flag waving, smoke screening and whole lot of chanting.
Before you head out for the game, however, you’ll need a ticket, which can be bought at any tabacchi shop around the city. For 22 euro (women get a slight discount) you can get decent seats, the best of which are along the sidelines. Tickets can also be bought from scalpers, but if you take this route be sure you know which section your seats are for, as you may wind up stuck in the Plexiglas prison that is the opposing side’s section.
Getting to the game is simple. From the south side of the train station, you can take the 7, 17, 20, or 52 buses, which all drop you off within blocks of the stadium. Bus tickets are also sold at the tabacchi shops, for 1.20 euro. When you first step on the bus, make sure to validate your ticket in the machines near the entrances. As eager as you might be to get to the game and go wild, stay vigilant regarding your belongings, as pickpockets eagerly exploit the packed buses to their nefarious advantage. Thieves come in all shapes and sizes, including attractive men and women, so don’t be lulled into a false sense of security when a good-looking person inches up beside you. That said, the bus can also be a great place to meet new friends, so don’t hold back from introducing yourself to those around you. Once you get off, simply follow the crowd.
At the entrance to the stadium you are ushered into different numbered sections, which should correlate with the number on your ticket. Still, don’t be surprised when you are told you are in the wrong place, as the system is far from straightforward. Eventually you will be pointed to the right location. Remember also to bring photo ID. Your ticket should have your name on it, and security will check you before letting you into the stadium.
The final hurdle to cross comes with your seating assignment, which would better be called a seating suggestion. Unless you beat the crowd, don’t expect to find your seat with ease, or to even find it at all.
It is not uncommon to witness hundreds of fans mingling about the stairways and other open spaces, vying for the best shot of the action. Just let loose and go with it.
When the game ends and you are sufficiently versed in the language of the Fiorentina fan—most of which is entirely inappropriate to write here—you might find yourself hungry from all the revelry. Those of you longing for a touch of America in your sporting experience will be happy to find a number of snack stands outside the stadium that serve up surprisingly good hotdogs and hamburgers. Expect to pay around 3 euro. With your head full of newly learned Italian insults, your belly full of grub, and your feet full of pain, you can head back to where the buses first dropped you off. Assuming that the m80s, smoke bombs, and pickpockets failed to spoil your fun, you should congratulate yourself on an experience well enjoyed.
As one local explained to me, the passion of Italian fans breeds from centuries of pride and ethos, dating back to the era of gladiators and chariot races. This sporting allusion might seem a tad bit far-fetched, if not slightly disturbing, but it nevertheless encapsulates the beautiful insanity that is Italian football, an event that should be mandatory for anyone wanting to live life like a Florentine.
Stadio Artemio Franchi, Viale Manfredo Fanti 4
www.acffiorentina.it/en/Default.aspx (team site)