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Official Review by Stefano Romagnoli, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Football arrived in Italy with the ships of English merchants in the late nineteenth century. It is for this reason that the Luigi Ferraris is the oldest stadium in Italy still in use and one that most resembles British facilities. Genova was, and still is, a city of trade and it was not uncommon in the early twentieth century to see British sailors play football not far from ships docked in the harbor.
Unione Calcio Sampdoria began on August 12, 1946 from the merger of two sport societies present in Genova from the late nineteenth century, Andrea Doria and Sampierdarenese. Even the colors of the jersey are a legacy of the previous two teams: from Andrea Doria comes blue with white stripes, from Sampdierdarenese red and black stripes. The coat of arms of the city of Genova - the shield of San Giorgio - also stands out on the chest of Sampdoria players.
The blucerchiati, as the Sampdoria players are nicknamed, play their home games at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium, located in the Marassi neighborhood. Opened in 1933, six years after work began on the project, the Ferraris stands on the site where Genoa CFC played their home games from 1911. Before 1933 the venue was listed as Stadio Comunale di Via del Piano and the appearance was very different from what we see today. The new stands in reinforced concrete replaced wooden ones. Next came the northern tier (home of Genoa fans), the southern tier (home of Sampdoria fans) and finally, in 1947 the distinct sector.
The facility is named after Luigi Ferraris, Genoa CFC player and captain, who died during the First World War; a story reminiscent of La Spezia's stadium named after Alberto Picco, another player who died during the First World War.
Between 1987 and 1989, the Ferraris was renovated to host the 1990 FIFA World Cup. The project of the new Ferrraris bears the signature of the architect Vittorio Gregotti, who had already worked on the renovation of the Olympic Stadium Lluís Companys in Barcelona.
Some interesting facts mark the century of the Genova Stadium’s life. It has hosted two FIFA World Cup, those of 1934 and 1990, while the Italian national football team has played there 27 times, the first being on December 22, 1912. Musicians to have performed there include Bruce Springsteen, Frank Zappa and Lou Reed.
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".
Journalists who go to the Luigi Ferraris receive a wristband upon entry to the complex that allows access to some of their restricted areas, including one reserved for catering. On the ground floor, under the Tribuna Centrale, there is also a bar. You can buy drinks, even beer, but they are served in a paper cup, with savory and sweet snacks, including hot dogs, also on offer.
We decided to try what the fans eat and for one hot dog, water and coffee we spent €6.50. In the stadium there are other restaurant points: three for each tier (Nord and Sud), four in the Distinti sector, and four in the Tribuna sector. All are open for big matches, while three remain open during games with less appeal.
The Ferraris stadium is rectangular and fully covered. At the four corners rise towers in 'rosso Pompei', within which there are stairs to reach the various sectors. The playing field, close to the stands and separated from them by a transparent barrier, is illuminated by the floodlights housed in the cover and over the towers.
There are two big screens: one between the Gradinata Nord and the Distinti, the other between the Tribuna Centrale and the Gradinata Sud. On some scoreboards alongside two goals there are timers.
The players' entrance to the pitch is from the side of Distinti. The dressing rooms and press room, in fact, are located on the opposite side of the Tribuna Centrale and journalists, at the end of the match, run through a tunnel which passes under the playing field to reach them.
Genova is a city between the sea and the mountains. Marassi, the neighborhood where the Luigi Ferraris is found, often mistakenly lends its name to the stadium. Around the ground itself, there are numerous restaurants, not only Italian, and on matchdays there are plenty of peddlers of sandwiches.
In the city there is also an aquarium, the largest in Italy and the second in Europe for size. It is not far from the stadium by taxi, bus or car - you can reach it in about ten minutes - and a visit it is really worthwhile.
My personal tip is to ask at any restaurant for pasta with pesto. Pesto is a special sauce that is made in Genova with basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, pecorino cheese, garlic and sea salt.
The most vocal supporters of Sampdoria follow home games from the Gradinata Sud. The reading of the blucerchiata lineup is accompanied by a chorus (the fans repeat the surname of their heroes) that continues throughout the match.
During the match the Gradinata Sud, but also the Distinti sector, are a great spots for the blucerchiata, with mesh, scarves and flags that recall the colors of the Ligurian team.
Obviously, the main rivalry is the one with their Genoese cousins. The matches between UC Sampdoria and Genoa CFC are called "Derby della Lanterna". The visiting fans find accommodation in the booth placed between the Tribuna Centrale and the Gradinata Nord. Perhaps this is the area from which the view is worse, especially if the action takes place on the opposite side of the pitch.
The Marassi neighborhood and Ferraris stadium are easily reached. Nearby there are two railway stations and highway exits; the highway itself passes through the city of Genoa. The city is home to one of the main Italian and European ports, and has an international airport.
All the information to buy tickets and see a home match the Blucerchiati is published on the UC Sampdoria web site are published. Ticket prices vary from sector to sector and, in addition, there are some special concessions. My advice is to go onto the relevant section of the site and purchase your ticket by reading all the information.
Luigi Ferraris SRL is working on a facility renovation project. The future of the Ferraris might be without barriers between the pitch and the stands, while the subtsitutes' benches would be between the Tribuna Centrale (similar to the model of Juventus Stadium), with stages for VIP and companies and many other improvements. Since July 2016, the facility has been owned by Luigi Ferraris SRL, a company founded by UC Sampdoria and Genoa CFC, which is responsible for managing the venue.
The Luigi Ferraris is, without doubt, one of the most fascinating venues in Italy. Its only flaw is that it has been more than twenty years since its last renovation and the time is beginning to be felt with some minor inconveniences.
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