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Official Review by Stefano Romagnoli, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
From the Arena Garibaldi - Stadio Romeo Anconetani one can see Piazza dei Miracoli, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. On the UNESCO website, the site "houses a group of monuments known the world over. These four masterpieces of medieval architecture - the cathedral, the baptistry, the campanile (the 'Leaning Tower') and the cemetery - had a great influence on monumental art in Italy from the 11th to the 14th century."
The local university, founded in 1343, can count Galileo Galilei among its teachers and boasts three Nobel Award winners among its former students: Giosuč Carducci (Literature in 1906), Enrico Fermi (Physics in 1938), and Carlo Rubbia (Physics in 1984).
In the place which now hosts the home matches of AC Pisa 1909 there was an open space on which horseriding and theatrical performances were organized at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Initially named Arena Federighi, it was branded Arena Garibaldi before the twentieth century. Shortly before the First World War, the Pisa Sporting Club won several regional tournaments and, in the 1920/1921 season, as the champions of Italy south central, challenged FC Pro Vercelli for the national championship.
The early success convinced the black & blue leaders to buy the land on which they played their first official football match on October 26, 1919. Later the land became the property of the municipality and in the fascist period changed appearance, with the construction of the grandstand and terraces, and in name, as it was inaugurated a second time on October 8, 1931 as the Campo del Littorio. The facility resumed his old name, Arena Garibaldi, after the fall of the fascist regime and the dismantling of the military hospital, which had occupied its pitch during the war.
Between the beginning of the sixties and late seventies numerous works were carried out that gave the stadium its present appearance - the 1961 construction of the Curva Nord, the 1968 construction of the Curva Sud and a new Gradinata, followed by the 1978 expansion of the two curves up to unite the various sectors. On December 9, 2001, the property was co-named after Romeo Anconetani, a historic president of Pisa, who led the black & blue in its best time for sports success.
At the end of the 2015/2016 season AC Pisa 1909 was promoted to Serie B, the second tier of Italian football. The return to this category after almost ten years of absence - the Tuscans had been missing since the 2008/2009 season - required further interventions to the structure. Therefore, the team played the first two home games at the Carlo Castellani Stadium in Empoli.
Since September 24, 2016 the Arena Garibaldi - Romeo Anconetani has been once again the home of AC Pisa 1909. Also we should remember that twice, in 1959 and in 2015, the Arena Garibaldi - Romeo Anconetani was home to the final of the Viareggio Cup due to the unavailability of the Torquato Bresciani Stadium in Viareggio; that the Azzurri, as the Italian national football team are fondly known, have used it to play four friendly matches between 1987 and 2009; and finally, that has been home to Serie A matches for 7 championships.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
On a cold and rainy winter afternoon we tried the eating area that serves the tribune area, where we found hot drinks such as coffee, tea and chocolate. Sweet and savoury snacks, and packets of crisps and sweets were also available.
Some bars are also present in the Gradinata and Curva sectors, with a similar fare on offer in the Tribuna. After the match, we decided to eat a hot dog and a beer - 5 euros in total - from one of the many peddlers present around the stadium.
The Tribuna is the only covered stadium area. The two curves (the Sud being reserved for visiting supporters) and Gradinata are open. On the latter, before the spectators take place, you can read the inscription "Pisa" thanks to the blue color that stands out on the gray concrete steps.
The pitch is separated from the fans by a transparent barrier that does not disturb the visibility. Between the Curva Sud and Gradinata is a scoreboard, but is not currently used, either before or after matches. The two teams come onto the pitch through a tunnel that passes between the two benches.
The leadership of AC Pisa 1909 is in discussion with the city government over a plan to improve the entire structure that would include the coverage of all sectors, the expansion of capacity from the current 8,500 to 16-18,000 seats, and the expansion of services and level of comfort, including the connection of the spectators to the pitch.
The facility is located in the district of Porta Lucca in the northern outskirts of the city. The area, characterized by rather low houses and full of shops, restaurants, bars, bakeries and pizzerias, takes its name from the door opening along the walls of the medieval age that surround the historic center of Pisa.
It is a city with an incredible history. Founded by the Etruscans and passed under Roman rule, it is known for being one of the most important maritime republics. And the city is full of traces and museums that recall its glorious past.
AC Pisa 1909 fans dance and sing from beginning to end of the match, with the most passionate group found in the Curva Nord. Fans wave flags that recall the colors of the team but also public symbols. The curve is named after a supporter, Maurizio Alberti, who died after a heart attack that struck him on the stadium stands Picco of La Spezia on January 24, 1999.
The most intense matches are those which see the black & blue playing against Livorno, but there are also strong rivalries with Fiorentina, Lucchese and outside its region, Spezia.
Pisa is not a very big city and reaching the Arena Garibaldi is quite simple. Fans who choose to arrive in the city of the 'Leaning Tower' have two options: stop at Pisa Central Station and walk through the old town with all its quaint shops, or get off at Pisa San Rossore Station and go through Piazza dei Miracoli.
Pisa is also home to an international airport, while the city is connected to the main roads through the Firenze-Pisa-Livorno highway or the A11 between Florence and Pisa. Also it is worth remembering that nearby Livorno is home to one of the most important Italian ports.
Ticket prices in the four areas range from a minimum of 5 euros for children aged between 6 and 14 years, to 30 euros for the upper tribune. For a match of AC Pisa 1909 in this 2016/2017 season tickets cost 10 euros in the Curva Nord, 15 euros in the Gradinata and 20 euros in the Tribuna Inferiore.
On the official website of the Tuscan club further discounts and concessions are also listed, as well as additional information to buy tickets from Pisa Point or online.
The absorbing matchday experience in compact surroundings is the main selling point for AC Pisa 1909, but one can enjoy the spectacular views every bit as much as the sport.
Venture into the city to discover the local culinary delights of "cecina," similar to an omelet made with chickpea flour (hence the name), and "torta co bischeri," also renamed "torta del 28." The latter is a kind of American pie, with a filling of pine nuts, fruit, egg, chocolate and rice boiled in milk.
You couldn't ask for a more beautiful or historic setting than the city of Pisa on the Tuscan coast. This is a stadium journey to soak up the culture as much as the football, but with the historic venue and energetic support for an improving side, you are well-catered for on all fronts.
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