Soccer in Rome: 7 Things I Learned at the Roma-Lazio Game

Roma Lazio derby in Rome
Roma supporters at the Roma-Lazio 2013 derby

Until this week, I’d never seen a soccer game in Rome. I know. Shameful. But now, not only have I seen a Rome soccer game, but I’ve seen the Rome soccer game—the Rome derby, where Rome’s soccer teams, AS Roma and Lazio, duke it out. More importantly? I survived.

Want to head to a soccer game in Rome? Here are 7 things I learned at the Roma-Lazio game, and that you might want to know… especially if you’re as much of a soccer newbie as I am.

Yes, the atmosphere is fantastic…

For proof, check out my video of the moment when Roma scored against Lazio (Roma’s one goal in what would turn out to be a 1-1 draw). ‘Nuff said.

…and yes, games in Rome (and Italy, and elsewhere) can get violent

Soccer games in Rome
Usually, the most ruckus you’ll find is lots of shouting and hand gesturing. But not always.

To many Italians, a football match has more immediate, emotional impact than, I don’t know, a papal election. So be prepared. At most games, it’s the usual: lots of shouting, swearing (at the derby, I lost track of the number of times the guy next to me shouted “Vaffanculo!” and worse, all with his 8-year-old next to him), and gesturing (especially because, hey, it’s Italy!).

But, sometimes, shit can get real. Especially at major games and derbies. That’s thanks to the “ultras”—the super-uber-extra-hard-core fans—who look forward all year long to this opportunity for mayhem victory. At the 2004 Rome derby, for example, rumors began that a child had been injured in riots outside the stadium. Several Roma “ultras” stormed the pitch and spoke to Francesco Totti, demanding the game be called off; Totti later said they’d threatened him with his life. Stands were set on fire, people were tear gassed, riots broke out around the stadium, and more than 170 people were injured.

At this week’s derby, six fans were stabbed, two hit with bottles, and an ambulance was attacked. In other words: tame.

I kid! But, seriously, it can get crazy. People seem to realize this. They didn’t exactly bring their families to the derby, for example: Instead, 90 percent of the crowd was men, and while there were a handful of children, they were all young boys who already seemed as tough as their fathers.

So if you’re going to a derby or another major game, err on the side of caution. Sit in the safer seats (more where those are next). Arrive shortly before kickoff, since the mayhem tends to take place over the course of the hour before the game, when fans are gathered outside. Leave right after, since that’s when ticked-off or drunkenly-ecstatic fans express their emotions in Neanderthal-like especially physical ways.

And don’t worry: Even if you’re careful, you’ll still get to see some of the nuttiness… from afar. Check out the short clip above of Roma ultras going nuts right after Roma scored for proof.

At Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, the crazies are in Curva Sud and Curva Nord

Lazio fans at a Rome soccer game
Looking toward the Lazio side—including the fires being set by the Lazio ultras

Typically, the ultras are seated at the curves of the stadium, i.e. right behind the goal posts. Same at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Curva Sud (shown above) is for Roma ultras; Curva Nord, their Lazio counterparts.

Obviously, this is not where the faint of heart should sit. Instead, scaredy-cats like myself might want to grab a spot in a faraway section, like Montemario, where you can see all of the action going on with the Curva folk below… but don’t have to be, you know, in it.

<duh>If it’s a big game, get your tickets early…</duh>

Less duh: But not too early. Because you can’t. Tickets are released a week ahead of the games.

Also, you can’t get your tickets the day of the game, so plan accordingly.

…and at a store or online.

The best way to get tickets is to go to an outlet for Roma or Lazio. For AS Roma, the most central store locations are Piazza Colonna, 360 (near the Trevi Fountain); Via Arenula, 82 (near Largo Argentina); and Via Appia Nuova, 130 (a 10-minute walk from the San Giovanni metro stop). For Lazio, the most central official store is at Via Farini, 34 (right near the Termini train station). When you go to the store, bring cash and an I.D. (Bring your I.D. to the stadium, too. You’ll need it to enter!).

You also can get your tickets online, but many websites price-gouge, especially right ahead of the big games. Trustworthy, more-reasonable websites to look at include TicketOne and Listicket.

Also, be aware that there’s often a discount for women, but it’s not always evident online. On Listicket, the only tickets left when I looked were €110; when I went to the Roma store in person, I was able to score a “female” ticket for €70. (And no, soccer tickets aren’t usually that pricey—it’s because it was the derby).

Whether you’re for Roma or Lazio is a really big deal

Roma versus Lazio
Which team are you on, anyway?

If you’re going to a Rome soccer game, obviously, you’ll have to pick between the city’s two teams.

A quick primer: Lazio’s older. It’s also got a sweet rebel streak, at least historically. Lazio was the only major Roman football club that refused a merger, instituted by the Fascist government, with the other teams. Most of its fans come from the northern areas of Rome, including wealthier areas like Prati, Parioli, and Monte Mario.

Roma, on the other hand, was founded in 1927. (Yes, by that Fascist merger). The most popular football club in Rome, its supporters usually hail from the center, including the Testaccio neighborhood.

Finally: Lazio’s colors are sky-blue and white. Roma’s are red and orange. Coordinate your clothing accordingly.

There’s an American on the Roma team

Roma Lazio game with Michael Bradley
Number 4—American Michael Bradley—on the ball at the Rome derby

Who knew? (Not me). But, yes, down there with all of those Italian players is none other than an American expat. Princeton, New Jersey native Michael Bradley, a central midfielder, signed with Roma for a cool €3.75 million. So to get your American pride going (if you’re American, or hey—even if you’re not!), look out for number 4.

Ever been to a soccer game in Italy? What’d you think? Let me know in the comments!

If you liked this post, you’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.

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