Sports are a large part of many cultures around the world. In U.S. culture, we start sports young and continue to play them throughout our lives. Sports are also very popular and a huge part of life in Italy. Many Italians grow up playing sports and are fiercely loyal to their favorite professional teams and athletes. To help you stay active year round, check out these Italian sports you can play here in Colorado!
HISTORY OF ITALIAN SPORTS
Italy has a long history of sports. While many sports are played in Italy, some of the most popular include auto racing, cricket, soccer and cycling. Italy’s warm summers are perfect for playing sports outdoors, and the snow-filled winters and alpine regions are great winter sport destinations.
In fact, Italy’s love of sports has shown in their involvement with the Olympics. The country has hosted the Games three times, including the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo, 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.
The most popular sport in Italy, and perhaps all of Europe, is by far soccer. Italian soccer dates back to the late 16th Century, originating in Florence. It was originally called “Giuoco del calcio Florentino,” which meant “Florentine kick game.” The name was eventually shortened to “calcio,” which today translates to “soccer.”
The Italian national team has won the men’s World Cup four times (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006), which is the second most FIFA wins in history behind Brazil, who has won five times. Italy’s professional soccer league is called Serie A and is made up of 20 clubs in the league. Most larger regions in Italy have their own leagues, which has lead to many competitive rivalries across Italy.
While France’s Tour de France is often the first thought when thinking of cycling, Italy is also well-known for its cycling competitions. The first classic Italian cycling competition was held in 1860, spanning more than 150 kilometers (93.2 miles) between the cities of Milan and Turin.
Today, Italy is home to one of the three “Grand Tours,” the Giro d’Italia, or Tour of Italy. Like the Tour de France, there are several sections to the race, each taking cyclists through different regions of Italy and surrounding countries. The winner is the cyclist with the fastest aggregate time. This year, the Giro d’Italia took place throughout the month of May, and cyclists raced for a total of 3,615.4 kilometers (2,246.5 miles), averaging 171.7 kilometers (106.7 miles) per day!
While basketball may not be the most popular activity, it has definitely become one of the fastest growing Italian sports. The country’s league, named Lega Basket Serie A, was founded in 1920 and is ranked the third best league in the world behind the U.S.’s NBA and Spain’s ABC leagues. Additionally, the Italian national team won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics.
One of the best known traditional Italian sports is bocce. Bocce is the plural of the Italian word “boccia,” which translates to “ball.” This famous Italian sport is a form of lawn bowling that has grown in popularity in the U.S. (you can even join leagues here in Denver!). It’s believed to have originally been played by soldiers passing time between battles with rocks instead of a set of official bocce balls.
In early official leagues, bocce was played with a set of wooden balls, but they often wore out quickly and were difficult to play with. After several transformations, bocce sets were first made out of metal in 1923, and the design stuck. Today, over 30 countries take part in the Bocce Championship every other year, and as a relaxed sport, it goes great with an Italian picnic!
Italy is also well-known for its competitive auto racing, specifically the Italian Grand Prix. As one of the longest-running racing events on the current F1 calendar, the Italian Grand Prix is the only racing event to stay on the F1 calendar every year since 1950 besides the British Grand Prix. The race has been held every year in Italy since 1921.
Because of its prime alpine regions, Italy is an ideal skiing destination. Downhill skiing (“sci alpino”) and cross country skiing (“sci di fondo”) are popular winter activities throughout Italy. While the best skiing locations are in the Alps, there are several slopes throughout the entire country. In fact, most snowboarders choose the slopes in Rome’s Campo Imperatore, and in the south, many skiers enjoy the slopes at Mount Etna.
Italy’s landscape and weather make it an ideal location for many sports throughout the year. Luckily, here in Colorado, we have a climate that allows us to play these same sports! And the best part? Once you’ve built up an appetite after a hard-fought Italian sports win, you can bring the entire family to Mici for dinner and top it off with a sweet treat!