However, when it comes to working up a sweat, you won’t see as much evidence of this as you do in many other countries.
The Italians’ passion for sport is usually confined to watching rather than participating, although Italy has a proud record in international competition in many sports, notably football, basketball, cycling, motor racing, skiing and boxing. For example, you see few joggers on the streets and the general fitness craze that has swept many countries in the last decade or so has, to a large extent, passed Italy by.
Schools don’t need to offer sport as part of their curriculum and although some do provide sporting activities, many have poor facilities and are unable to do so. However, appearances can be deceptive and there are plenty of opportunities to take part in amateur sport around the country; you may just need to look a bit harder to find them.
Italians tend to be serious about their sport, as they’re about anything that involves dressing up and looking their best. If you want to blend in with the crowd, it isn’t the done thing to turn up in a pair of old shorts and an ill-fitting T-shirt advertising your favourite beer (or a university you never attended).
Whatever their chosen sport, Italians invariably look the part and have the latest and best equipment, plus the most fashionable attire, even if they’re beginners. Sports equipment is generally reasonably priced in Italy, although fashionable ‘designer’ sports wear can be expensive. However, if you time your purchases for the low season and during sales, or buy last season’s gear, a considerable amount can be saved.
Tourist and information offices can put you in touch with local sports clubs and facilities, but they cannot usually provide comprehensive information. Sports shops ( articoli sportivi) are usually a good source of information about local sports facilities, and clubs ( associazioni e federazioni sportive) may be listed in the yellow pages ( pagine gialle) or the English yellow pages (www.englishyellowpages.it).
Alternatively you can contact the national federation for your chosen sport (some federations are listed in this chapter) or the Italian Olympic Committee, Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano/CONI, Foro Italico, 00194 Rome (06-36851). If you have access to the internet, you will find a wealth of information about Italian sports (try www.datasport.it).
Sports such as football (especially), motor racing and cycling attract vast numbers of ardent supporters, and if you have the opportunity to attend a major event in one of these sports it will certainly be an experience to remember. The information below includes details of both watching and participating in Italy’s most popular sports (in alphabetical order).
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Italy from Survival Books.