If you are a football fan, surely you also love its temples, that is the stadiums. When you go on holiday abroad you will immediately find out about the fastest route to reach them, consult the timetables of the annexed museum, and study the route of the guided tours. From Barcelona to London, from Munich to Paris, every city has a symbolic stadium and you probably know it.
And in Italy? What are the largest plants in our country? Which ones have the most beautiful and longest history? At a time when various of our football clubs seem destined to change owners soon and the new way seems to be that of owned stadiums, perhaps it is worth taking stock of the situation. So here are the five largest stadiums in Italy, a list accompanied by a bit of history and curiosity.
Meazza in Milan
81,277 seats for Milan and Inter
Also known as San Siro Stadium, the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium in Milan is the largest and most important Italian complex. With a total of 81,277 seats, it is nicknamed La Scala of Italian football and is located via dei Piccolomini, precisely in the San Siro district. It has been used by Milan since its construction – it was the Rossoneri team who wanted it – and by Inter only after the war. And the paradox is that the Rossoneri president who promoted its construction was Piero Pirelli, president of the same club that is strongly linked to Inter today.
Inaugurated in 1926, the stadium was initially owned by AC Milan and housed around 35,000 people. The first match was played there on 19 September: it was a friendly match between the two Milanese teams. In 1935, however, the Rossoneri sold it to the Municipality, which is a few years expanded it, until it reached 55,000 seats. In the 1950s the second ring was built, and in 1962 the capacity, after reaching the crazy figure of 90,000 seats, settled at 85,000.
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It was named after Giuseppe Meazza in 1980, that is, in the year following the death of the famous former striker of the national team. The arrival of the seats shortly afterward reduced their capacity, but the works for Italia ’90 led to the construction of the third ring and a new capacity of 85,700 seats, all covered. Other modernization works followed one another in the following years.
Among the most memorable matches that took place here, we must remember the semifinal of the World Cup in ’34 (Italy-Austria 1-0), the final of the 1965 European Cup (Inter-Benfica 1-0), the inaugural match of the World ’90 (the surprising Argentina-Cameroon 0-1) and the recent Champions League finals (in 2001 with the victory of Bayern and a few days ago, in 2016, with that of Real Madrid ). In addition, since 1980 the facility has hosted various rock concerts in the summer. Famous, in this sense, are those of Bob Marley in 1980, Laura Pausini in 2007, and the numerous performances by Vasco Rossi.
Olympic in Rome
The stadium of Roma and Lazio
Even the Olimpico in Rome, the second-largest stadium in our country, has an origin that dates back to the 1920s. In fact, in 1927 work began to build a large sports facility in what was to become the Foro Mussolini and which was renamed Foro Italico after the war. The idea was that of a stadium for games of various kinds, but in 1932 only the first ring was ready. However, the stadium was inaugurated with the name Stadio dei Cipressi.
A few years later the works resumed, but the arrival of the Second World War did not allow the completion of the plant. It was only possible to recover from 1950: the stadium was completed three years later. It could accommodate about 100 thousand people and for this reason, it was temporarily renamed the Stadio dei Centomila. The name was then changed to Olympic on the occasion of the 1960 Games, even if the elimination of standing places lowered the capacity to about 65 thousand seats.
THE WORKS FOR ITALY ’90
A massive modernization was carried out in view of the 1990 World Cup. The stands were refurbished and coverage was added to them, while the curves were brought closer to the playing field. The capacity thus increased to almost 83 thousand seats, but the magnificent integration between the stadium and the surrounding environment that had been achieved in the first decades of life was partly lost. Finally, the last refurbishment in 2008 has increased comfort but further reduced the capacity to the current 73,261 seats.
Among the most important events hosted in the structure we must remember the two finals of the 1968 European Championship won by Italy, the final of Italy ’90 between West Germany and Argentina, and four finals of the European Cup / Champions League (including the tragic Roma’s home defeat to Liverpool in 1984 and Juventus’ victory over Ajax in 1996 ). Beyond football, it has also hosted many competitions of the Rome Olympics, the 1974 European Athletics Championships and the 1987 World Championships, and, recently, various national rugby matches.
San Paolo of Naples
60,000 seats in a by now historic facility
It is third for homologated capacity, but the San Paolo of Naples, in its history, has often passed the entrances to the Olimpico and even the Meazza. We are talking, however, of other times: times in which the safety procedures were not taken into account as today and in which the third ring had not yet fully manifested its danger for the houses in the neighborhood.
Built throughout the 1950s, the stadium – which in the beginning was to be called Del Sole, but was later dedicated to the saint who was said to have passed through Fuorigrotta – was inaugurated in two games between December 1959 and January 1960. In the beginning, it could host 87,500 standing people. Then, with the addition of child seats and the modernization works that have gradually followed, the capacity has decreased to the current 60,240 seats.
CONTROVERSIES AND CONDEMNATIONS
Precisely the works carried out on the occasion of the 1990 World Cup have aroused much controversy over the years, both for the poor quality of the project and the works carried out and for the suspicion of corruption. A definitive sentence came only in 2006, with some sentences which, however, were not imposed due to the statute of limitations. Among the most important matches played there, we must remember various European matches in 1968 and 1980, but above all the semifinal of Italy ’90 against Maradona’s Argentina, lost by Italy on penalties.
St. Nicholas of Bari
Designed by Renzo Piano
The stadiums we have presented so far have been designed by a myriad of engineers and architects, who have often reworked and corrected other people’s designs. In many cases, these are skilled professionals, who have also been able to give a partly artistic imprint to their creations, but whose name has practically never emerged outside their narrow area of expertise. The San Nicola di Bari, on the other hand, boasts an internationally renowned designer. In fact, it was designed by Renzo Piano, hired to donate an installation to the city in view of the World Cup in Italy ’90.
The Genoese architect’s project was approved in 1987 and was futuristic for the time. The stadium, which was temporarily given the nickname Spaceship, provided 45,000 seats all on two rings, with a very suggestive roof and lighting system. Various changes led to the opening of the stadium (named after St. Nicholas following a referendum in a local newspaper) in June 1990, with 58,270 seats.
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Since then the facility has been used for Bari matches and for some important international matches. Among these, the final for third place in Italy ’90 (with Italy victorious over England) and the 1991 European Cup final between Red Star of Belgrade and Olympique Marseille certainly deserve a mention. Today, however, the glories of the past seem to have been forgotten: the stadium in fact needs major maintenance interventions that have always been postponed in recent years.
Franks of Florence
The D stage
We conclude by returning to central Italy and in particular to Florence, where Artemio Franchi grabs a fifth place in the strong ranking of 46,389 places. But it is not just the numbers that play on the side of the Fiorentina stadium: the facility is one of the oldest and most prestigious in Italy, as well as one of the most artistically valuable. Its defect is, if anything, to be dated today precisely because of its conception, with curves that do not allow a great view, modernizations made difficult by the fact of being a national monument, uncovered stands, and not very agile structures.
It was built between 1930 and 1932 on a project by various engineers, among which Pier Luigi Nervi, also a collaborator of Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, stood out. The layout was in a D shape because it had to contain an athletics track with a 220-meter-long straight. Obviously, however, this feature was identified as a tribute to Mussolini, the “dux”. On the other hand, the entire stadium was initially named after Giovanni Berta, a young Florentine fascist killed in 1921 during the clashes with the communists. Considered one of the most beautiful stadiums of the time, it was renamed Comunale after the war.
FAREWELL TO THE ATHLETICS TRACK
The official capacity was 45,000 spectators, but with the addition of numerous metal stands it increased to 70,000 spectators. In the 1950s, however, supernumerary spectators were often admitted, so much so that in 1957 the collapse of a balustrade touched tragedy. This led to more careful management of the entrances, until, at the end of the 1980s, a major restructuring was carried out in view of the World Cup. The athletics track was thus removed, while in 1993 the title to Franchi, former FIFA manager, arrived.
Before saying goodbye, do you want to know who is immediately behind these first five stages? In sixth place, with 41,475 seats, we find the first stadium owned, the Juventus Stadium in Turin. Then, surprisingly, a stadium where a spring team plays – Della Vittoria from Bari -, Bentegodi from Verona, San Filippo from Messina, Barbera from Palermo, and Dall’Ara from Bologna.
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