ITALY

Verpiana Memories

Verpiana Memories

When I was a boy my best friend was another boy named Joe. We must have met when we were about four or five, and from that point on spent what seemed like most weekends together. Thanks to this near inseparable friendship, Joe’s parents quickly became close friends with mine. Both were artists — his father a sculptor and his mother a ceramicist — and both were pretty successful in their respective fields. My family and his would often go to the cinema or have dinner together at the weekends, and then one of us would sleep over at the…

The Eternity of a Moment

The Eternity of a Moment

I’ve never been much of a planner. I know what I like, and I usually know what I want, but rarely do I have any idea how to go about getting either. And yet life happens irrespectively. So from time to time I am inclined to ask myself, Well, how did I get here? It’s a timeless and universal question that invariably pops into the mind of every adult when they realize that their life is moving more quickly than they can comprehend. Yet as the past begins to stretch away behind me, the easier it becomes to recognize and…

Black and blue

Black and blue

In August 1990, just weeks after Totò Schillaci’s exploits at that summer’s World Cup, a shared place of birth would have seemed the only connection between the newborn Mario Balotelli and Italy’s Golden Boot winner. Born in Palermo to two Ghanaian immigrants, Thomas and Rose Barwuah, young Mario had a difficult first few years, undergoing a series of intestinal operations as a toddler. Even after being placed in foster care with the Balotelli family in the northern town of Brescia, the idea that Mario would one day wear the blue of Italy, let alone become a national icon, would have…

In defence of Serie A

In defence of Serie A

On the night of July 9, 2006 — not two hours after Zinedine Zidane had ended his career in infamy, indirectly propelling Italy to World Cup glory — I spotted the following freshly-painted graffiti through Florence’s exuberant crowds: “LA MAMMA DI ZIDANE E’ UNA PISANA”, or rather, Zidane’s mother is from Pisa. That Florentine Azzurri fans could imagine no greater ignominy than to infer that the disgraced Frenchman’s maternal relatives hail from another town in Tuscany said everything about Italy’s pervading sense of regionalism, and beyond that, campanilismo, or town-based identity. For this reason I was surprised to hear the…

Friday night lights

Friday night lights

Where were you ten years ago tonight? I was at San Siro. “Luci a San Siro di quella sera che c’è di strano siamo stati tutti là ricordi il gioco dentro la nebbia tu ti nascondi e se ti trovo ti amo là” There’s a magic moment as you enter one of the world’s great football stadia for the first time, before you’ve even begun to look for your seat, as you pace around the external ring looking to match the apparently random series of numbers to those on your ticket, as other fans hurry past you in the opposite…

<em>Ciao Vecio</em>: Italy mourns the end of an era

Ciao Vecio: Italy mourns the end of an era

In Italy they call him “il Vecio”, the old man. But in 1982 Italy coach Enzo Bearzot was a tanned, lithe 54-year-old in the prime of middle-age, a newly-crowned world champion who had led his team to the most unlikeliest of achievements. The nickname (from his native friulano) never had much to do with age but rather a unique Italian personality. Cool, educated and deeply spiritual, Bearzot was an icon of the Italian game who in some ways seemed to belong to another time. An avid fan of music and literature, before the World Cup celebrations had even subdued he’d…

My pink pages

My pink pages

“I don’t understand people who don’t read La Gazzetta dello Sport. Men, at least: I don’t understand them. I just don’t get it.” — Sandro Veronesi, writer It didn’t take me long to fall in love with Italy. It took me a little longer to fall in love with football. You’d probably find it hard to believe if you met me today, but in 1988 I was quite indifferent about The Beautiful Game. That was the year I first visited il bel paese (I’d been to Sardinia five years earlier but that doesn’t count, as any Sardinian will tell you)….

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