Eternal memories at the Derby della Capitale

Context :

As the anti-Covid measures are slowly fading, and the stadiums are filling up… It’s time for me to make up for lost time. Accompanied by my long-time sidekick, I’m off to conquer new stadiums! And you’ll quickly understand that our first destination is not the least with this football trip to the Rome derby, which will leave us with an indelible memory.

Football trip to the Derby of Rome, the Eternal City

 

A hectic connection at Orly caused by the delay of my train between Lyon and Paris later …and we arrive in the afternoon in Rome, where a slight disappointment awaits us. Indeed, the hostel we had chosen beforehand was not at all up to scratch. In a word, a slum which will cost us the loss of a few hours in order to find something else more suitable…

If you are already familiar with Rome, you will probably want to skip the story of our discovery of the city and go straight to the game. To do so, you can click ICI

Once we’ve found our accommodation for the weekend, our first evening takes us to Trastevere, a very touristy area with lots of restaurants. Our pasta-pizza diet for the weekend can therefore begin! A moment not necessarily out of the ordinary given the quantity of tourists around us, but which remained pleasant. We also liked the shop of the Trastevere football club (Serie D), located in the heart of the district.

On the way back to Termini station (Rome’s central station) where our hostel was located, the bus takes us at the feet of the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II. This building is simply colossal… It houses the Ministry of Culture, which says a lot about the greatness of the Italian culture that we are about to enjoy throughout our football trip to the Rome derby! Our first Roman evening takes an end.

 

Start of the visit!

The next day, we head straight to the Foro Romano. It is the place that concentrates the most architectural heritage of the city, and also the most tourists… We are in the middle of March and not on a holidays period, but the area is overcrowded… We suddenly realize that discovering the city will require more organization, and also that the visits of the monuments of the Forum, and in particular the Colosseum, are possible booking a time slot online on the first hand. Tedious but necessary given the number of people present in the area! So we postponed our visit to the Foro Romano until later in the afternoon and headed for the Circo Massimo instead, located a few hundred meters away.

There are far fewer people there than at the Forum, but there is not much to see. Except for those who choose to take the virtual tour. A luxury that we will not afford this time. What was once the racecourse of the ancient city of Rome is now a wide green area at the heart of the city. You can imagine the immensity of the former setting, but the virtual visit must necessarily help to give an idea of what it might have looked like at the time.
We take a short detour to the Orange Garden, a rather romantic place in the Italian capital, where you can enjoy a magnificent view of the city.

 

Football Murals hunting in Rome!

 

The itinerary of our football trip to the Rome derby is also influenced by a football-themed street-art hunt in the city. This is not something you can achieve in every city. But Rome is one of those cities that exude football. You can see it on the facades of buildings. So it’s in the Testaccio district that the unusual discovery of a representation of José Mourinho awaits us. A few hundred metres further south, we discover the Pyramid of Cestius. A lesser known monument in Rome, but interesting to discover, in the continuity of Testaccio. We then take the metro towards the Colosseum to finally be able to visit the area after our morning failure.

We start our tour with the Forum, waiting for our entry time to the Colosseum. As earlier this morning, the area is very busy. But the vast archaeological site of the Foro Romano gives us enough air and space to enjoy. On the menu, ultra-refined triumphal arches adorning the area, hundreds of columns, in relatively good condition, temples, ancient palaces, ruins of huge religious buildings… In short, the heritage of the Roman civilization displayed right before our eyes. The history of humanity is safeguarded here through these remains, and have survived the centuries and millennias.

 

The “Ancestor” of all stadiums!

 

It is finally time for us to enter the Colosseum. It’s a moment we’ve been looking forward to since our destination was set on Rome. When you think about it, the Colosseum is the first stadium as we know them today… So for stadium hunters like us, it’s a real symbol.
Of course, it wasn’t the same show back then… The Colosseum is a particularly inspiring place (despite the crazy number of visitors again). Once inside, I am caught by the weight of history. This arena has seen so many horrors, considered leisure and fun back in the Ancient times… Perhaps the spectacle in our stadiums today will also provoke philosophical contradictions for future generations… Long debate, and a rather topical one… It is often said that the stadiums are a reflection of our society… Still, the simple fact of trying to imagine the scenes that took place in this arena is having quite an effect on me.

What is for sure is that architecturally speaking, the Colosseum of Rome is very alike our contemporary stadiums. You can easily identifiy the different levels of stands and their steepness, as well as the imperial boxes. The remarkable state of conservation of the monument is additionally offering the possibility for the visitor to admire what was the backstage of the shows back then. You realize that it was a true logistic organization going on in the basements of the Colosseum, right under the stage. Back then, they would manage the events of the shows from these backstages (including irrigation, wild animals, gladiators and more…)

 

2000 years apart, and yet so alike

 

The vast corridors allow a great movement inside the monument. The building was conceived just like our modern stadiums, built to receive huge crowds! And the massive frequentation of the day is definitely bearing witness of the ingeniosity of the place when it comes to circulation and movement of masses in a closed space. Anyway, I believe I could be writing a thousand lines more on the Colosseum of Rome, but we’re not on Wikipedia so let’s move on! (laughter)

Our afternoon is close to an end when we are reaching Trastevere again to spend the evening there. This time, we will be in good company, meeting with other fellow football travellers or groundhoppers. Just like us, they came from all Europe to have an amazing football trip to Rome for the big derby. It is a lovel y night where everyone shares his football stories on previous trips. Some of us already visited the local ground of others, so we exchange views on the matter. It is the case for me and two fellow groundhoppers from Copenhagen (article available here). One of the other big topic of the night is also the big derby of Rome coming ahead tomorrow.

How to optimize your time during your football trip to the Rome Derby

 

By the end of the evening, my friend and I are suddenly feeling an energy boost, and so we decide to get back to visiting some areas of the city we haven’t had the time to see yet. At this moment, we also realized that we will never have enough time to see everything Rome has to offer, especially since tomorrow’s day is already fully booked! Hence why we march ahead to the Trevi Fountain by night, a tremendous experience!

If you’re assuming, like we did, that there must be fewer people at the Trevi fountain at midnight than there is during the day, I will break to you: nope. But it seems like we have got used to the crowds of visitors everywhere we go in Rome, or at least in the major sites. The Fountain is a quite sophisticated monument with very detailed sculptures. The façade of the building which is holding it is quite staggering as well, and makes the place even more sheltering and charming. Unlike many other major monuments and landmarks of the city, the Trevi Fountain is simply located at a crossroads of few streets of a rather residential neighborhood. It is almost like you could be wandering around this area and end up finding the fountain randomly, it is quite blend in the streets network of Rome.

On our way back to our hostel, we take a little detour to keep hunting for one more mural, and not the least! This time, we are hunting the famous Murale a Totti, made of the legendary captain of AS Roma pointing the sky with his finger. Recently retired from football, the city’s son is still as adored as he was when playing. Just like us, he will be attending the Eternal Derby tomorrow!
We make one last detour for the night to catch a glimpse of our beloved Colosseum by night, absolutely worth it. The monument is the ultimate symbol of the city, and we didn’t want to miss seeing it at night.

 

Sunday, game day and big clash ahead!

 


We are getting closer and closer to our baptism at the Stadio Olimpico of Rome on the occasion of the derby later today. But first, we keep discovering a little bit more of what the city has to offer, and head to the City of Vatican. And it is nothing but a coincidence, since sunday is a Mass day. This is a moment we obviously wanted to witness too! On our way there, we spend a moment around the Castel Sant’Angelo, which we didn’t get the chance (or time rather) to visit on the inside. This immense building is nothing less than the castle of the Vatican city, built to defend it back then. One more gigantic monument to add to the list…

The bridges that are granting acces to the City of the Vatican are also decored with an astonishing level of detail, rutted with monumental statues all along. Once again, we find ourselves immersed in the history of humanity while we explore the different places of the area. The Vatican is the major landmark of Catholicism, and you can easily guess how reach and powerful the papacy was, just by looking at the buildings around.

We land on Saint Peter’s Square at around 11.00AM. As usual, the place is overcrowded. Not surprisingly, a lot of people decided to attend the Mass today. The square is remarkably splendid. And as very often during our football trip to the Rome derby, the overfrequentation is lightened by the immensity of the place. At noon exactly, the siren are sounding, and the Pope speaks up from his window. He is acclaimed by his faithful, down from the square. The dozen of thousands of people who came to attend the Mass are then leaving the square once over.

At this point, it is totally unconceivable for us to try and visit the Saint Peter’s Basilica, seeing how many people are already queuing for it. But we will content ourselves from having been able to contemplate it for from the outisde during the Mass. On our way back, we make a nice touristic stop at the Piazza di Spagna and her famous stairs.

But our minds are elsewhere now. Our very own pelerinage is about to happen in a few hours, at the Stadio Olimpico!

AS Roma – Lazio Rome, Derby della Capitale, March 2022

 

Our football trip to the Rome Derby is naturally leading us to the Stadio Olimpico. We get there 2h30 before kick-off time, just to make a nice and smooth entrance to the place. It is derby day, and for this reason, the surroundings of the stadium are totally cut from the circulation, causing us to walk a while to reach the Foro Italico ( approximately 30 minutes from the last subway station). The access to the stadium is a quite simple and smooth process. The stewards are trying to act as if they care about people wearing the FFP2 mask. At that point, it is more of a pass than anything else. Sanitary passes are also checked (but not scanned…).

The outsides of the stadium are completely cut in half. On the one hand, the AS Roma side, and on the other, the Lazio fans. The Derby della Capitale is one of the fiercest games in the world, and security mesures are matching the level. The Rome derby has unfortunately known some tragical events. Events that are forging its history, as much as the victories and defeats of the two clubs in regards to this particular fixture.

Nowadays, the situation seems to be much more stable though. This season, both Rome clubs are totally out of the title’s race, and they are fighting hard to secure a spot for the European competitions next season. But independently from your colours, it is the supremacy on th ecity for the next 6 months that is at stake tonight. It is also the opportunity to enlighten a season that has been quite tern for both sides. This is at least the spirit for both fanbases at the moment of the game. But what the AS Roma fans didn’t know back then, is that 2 months later, their club will be lifting the Conference League trophy in Tirana!

 

An eternal city, for an Eternal Derby…

 

Derby day in Rome is the day where your neighbour or collegue becomes your worse ennemy, for one evening (and the day after, until the loser recovers..or the winner celebrates). Before the game, there is a lot of animation around the stadium. But the fiercest supporters are already inside when we get there. The weather is treating us pretty well for this weekend, as the sun is shining on the Olimpico.

It is quite hard to describe the outside appearance of the stadium. Like many Italian stadiums, it is somewhat aging. The outside architecture is relatively sober, with a lot of concrete elements. What is catching my eye is the metallic structure on the roof. It is probably the detail that makes this stadium recognizable among a thousand others. Like many places we have visited this weekend, the Olimpico is a gigantic building! Due to the anti-Covid measures, tonight’s game will be played at 75% of the total capacity of the stadium (72 000 seats) But once you are inside, you can hardly tell where are the 25 missing percents…/span>

As it appears, the Olimpico seems full. The hectic atmosphere of the night is naturally helping!
Our seats are located in the Tevere stand, not so far from the Lazio fans area. In order to firmly split the two fanbases, the stewards are forming a genuine No Mans Land of approximately 20 to 30 seats long. Our location in the stadium allows us to witness how fierce is the rivalry between the two sides. Some AS Roma Ultras groups are moving from their usual Curva Sur to be on the front against Lazio fans, the eternal rivals.

Is a running track in a football stadium a true problem?

The Laziale curva is quite impressive. It is filled with flags bearing the club’s colours, and has a crazy vocal power! The pre-game clearly goes in favour of Lazio fans. Maybe because we are so close from them than from the AS Roma fanbase… As I was saying previously, the Stadio Olimpico is huge, and so it is on the inside. Every olympic stadium comes with its running track, which makes the inside even wider. It is common for a football fan to always worry and think he or she will be seating too far from the show because of the track. Tonight in Rome, it is far from being the case. I actually have no memories of the track at all, given how well the show was taking on me.

 

A pre-game worthy of the Derby della Capitale

I want to tell you about a hilarious moment in our stands, when some AS Roma fans started inflating birthday balloons in order to mock the 11 years period when Lazio were playing in Serie B, completed with a pig with a white and skyblue scarf. I was even granted the honor to inflate one myself…for eternal glory. The players are warming up… The stands are already boiling. Those who have not followed AS Roma this season can easily guess who are the favourite players of the crowd while the speaker is announcing the composition. Among the headlines, we find the child of the city and current captain Lorenzo Pellegrini, as well as Tamy Abraham. Les joueurs s’échauffent… Some nice players as well on the Lazio fan, with Immobile and Milinkovic-Savic to name but a few.

Warm up comes to an end, the kick-off wistle is getting closer and we can already see tifos getting their last details set in both curvas… The Lazio side provides us with a stunning eagle tifo, symbol of the club. On the other end, the Romanistas are sticking to their equally symbolic female wolf, nursing her cubs. In this precise moment, the Rome Derby is now truly launched!

 

Quick start for this football trip to the Rome Derby

 

And it will not take long until it delivers the very first turn of events. On the very first minute, corner for AS Roma, victoriously converted by Abraham, 1-0 already. The wolf tifo is not removed yet, and the Olimpico is literally booming and chanting the name of the scorer, who will be one of the heroes of the night. A few moments later, the English man will make it 2-0 for AS Roma, smashing a good cross in. He got close to the hat-trick many times along the game for what could have been a perfect night for him. Tamy Abraham landed in Rome back in the summer, and he is literally walking on water! Every ball he touches that night becomes a great danger for Lazio, who are clearly not finding the solution tonight.

It must be said that AS Roma players are playing particularly good football that night. Something you’ve hardly seen this season so far. The AS Roma fans are dreaming awake. It is like all their doubts and difficulties had faded in a snap. The giallorossi are playing in full confidence, in harmony with their supporters who are completely turning this derby into something irrational. Captain Pellegrini himself will turn down all hopes of a comeback for Lazio with a stunning 25m free kick into the top corner. 3-0 at half time and final score. Lazio never managed to find its football that game, and they will be on the first row to watch their eternal rival overpassing them on the Serie A table. A night they would want to forget as soon as possible…

 

Bringing down the curtain in Rome

 

On the AS Roma side however, you can feel that the players and fans have reconnected something that was missing this season. History will perhaps recall that it is this game that gave enough confidence to fight and claim their Conference League title later this season. The atmosphere remains completely hectic during the second half, even though the pace on the field is nothing compared to the first half. AS Roma chants are sticking into my head and will only leave a few weeks later. Once we are out of the stadium, it is hard to tell if Italy did not just win the World Cup. The surroundings of the Olimpico are a giant Yellow and Red party. The streets are completely stuck and everyone sings and honks. Magic scenes to end our football trip to the Rome Derby!

 

 

My friend and I are then ending the night in a restaurant, with our freshly met companions with the birthday balloons. We discuss and re-make the night a hundred times over pizza and spagetthi for a change. They tell us how lucky we are to be here in Rome tonight, attending this very specific game. Our return flight is quite early in the next morning, so we are forced to shorten the night in such a good company. But we realize how exceptionnal was our football trip to the Rome Derby, in all ways that you can ever imagine. Possibly one of the greatest we ever had…

Thank you Rome !

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