This is the final post of my series documenting my time in Italy in May. We had started off in Milan, travelled North to the beautiful mid lake region of Lake Como. Then turned south and spent a few days in the beautiful Cinque Terre and the Italian Riviera. For our final night we were back in the fashion capital of Milan.
For our last evening there was just one agenda, watching a football / “Calcio” match at the San Siro. The San Siro is a legendary stadium which I have grown up seeing on TV, watching the likes of Marco van Basten and Paolo Maldini dominate European football. So when I got the chance to visit Milan and be in town on a match day, I made sure that I bought tickets to the match online. Luckily the match was a AC Milan vs Roma match, which is the second most fanatically contested matches after the Milan Derby. So I was anticipating a lively crowd even though the Milan team was not a patch on the great teams of the past and not in contention for the title. Football is a religion in Italy like cricket is back home in India, so it was good to visit one of the famous shrines and see the ceremony live!
We had reached Milan from Santa Margherita Ligure and took the Metro to the Missori Station nearest to our Hotel, the Best Western Ascot Hotel. I had chosen the hotel as it was very close to a metro station and to the tram line that ran straight to the San Siro. Plus it was a reasonably priced and offered the regular chain hotel facilities. We checked in, freshened up and got ready to go to the match.
I was wearing my AC Milan t-shirt that I had bought just to wear to the stadium. We asked the person at the reception for directions to the San Siro. He was a Inter supporter and after he gave me directions he asked if I was sure he was giving me the right directions since I am an AC Milan supporter!!
We reached the tram stop and waited for our tram, we had bought a 24 ticket on our way in to Milan ( It’s always better to have those rather than searching for the shops selling the tickets when you need them quickly). Milan has a superb network of public transport unlike Rome and we used it a lot in our time there. We got into the tram, validated our passes and got seats fairly quickly. The tram moved through Milan, passed the Duomo and the Galleria that we had been to on day 1 of our trip. We moved past the central town, where we had spent most of our time and into the residential outskirts where the stadium is located. The San Siro is at the end of the line 16 and we disembarked at the last stop, right at the foot to the stadium itself!
I had debated carrying my SLR to the stadium and finally had decided to carry it and reach early so that in case it is not allowed then we will have adequate time to go back and keep it in the hotel. Thankfully my fears were unfounded and no one even asked me about the SLR as we passed the security points and our tickets and passport was checked and we were ushered inside. Whenever we have seen any live sports in India, football or cricket there is an obscene amount of security with absurd and random rules. ( Last time we were asked to remove all coins!! and since I had more than 10Rs I asked for a 10 rs note in return, after which I was allowed to take my coins in!!) Compared to that, the San Siro was superbly organised. Staff everywhere to point people to their assigned sections, well marked sections & seats, shops outside selling all types of food and memorabilia and toilets in each section.
We got to our allotted seats which I had booked in the middle tier right near the midline which had great views. This was a time to go crazy with my camera and take a lot of photos of the stadium. It was my first time inside a fabled stadium and I was living my dream right now.
We went out to get some refreshments, coke for the better half and a beer for me and some chips. Coming from a place where nothing is allowed inside stadiums to having beer inside one is a huge leap! The crowd was starting to build up and there were regular Milan supporters around us with some tourists like us interspersed in between.
We were sitting besides a boisterous group of Milan supporters who were finishing their beers at a rapid pace and even offering me some. The teams came out to practice and by the time they were done my neighbours were into their third beer!
The Roma supporters were cooped up in the top tier at one end as is the norm for away supporters. The teams were announced and each Milan name was cheered wildly and each Roma name booed with the same enthusiasm. Except for Francesco Totti, the Roma talisman whose name was wildly cheered even in Milan. It was his last season and I am lucky that I got to see him play! The teams lined up and soon we were off!
Roma were the better team on the day and they were soon two goals ahead by half time. My neighbours were getting more and more frustrated by the lack of quality in the Milan team.( They even told me to visit after a few years when they have a better team)
The Roma supporters were super loud by now taunting the Milanese faithful and it was a super charged atmosphere, highly enjoyable even though the team I was supporting was losing. After half time Milan appeared to have some life about them and they pulled a goal back which got me a few bear hugs and hard high fives from my neighbours.
The cheerful atmosphere brought about by the Milan goal was very short lived and within a few minutes Roma had scored again. That prompted my neighbour to throw his half full beer glass towards the pitch onto some poor guy in the stands below. After that the contest was effectively over and we sat for a few minutes and left when there were a few minutes left to play after shaking hands with my neighbours and wishing them goodbye. ( I would have taken a photo with them if Milan had won, hopefully will do that some day in the future)
We got lost searching for the Metro station as there were no trams at the moment. Eventually after wandering around we decided to return to the tram station and take the tram back. By the time the crowds had left the stadium and we got into a crowded but comfortable tram for a journey back to the hotel.
In the tram we found out from some irate Milan supporters that Roma had scored one more goal. As we reached the stop near our hotel it was late night. We reached our room and promptly slept off as we had an early flight back home to catch.
It had been an exhilarating experience watching football of the highest level at one of the famous stadiums in the world. Even though the home team was not at its best, it was great to see the same emotions that we get to see in the cricket stadiums back home in India. Thanks to the better half who gamely accompanies me to such stuff, even though she is not a big fan of the sport.
It had been a great 8 days in the Northern region of the beautiful country of Italy. It was our second trip to Italy and we hope to be back to enjoy the wonderful food, culture, history and nature someday soon.
With regards to the San Siro, AC Milan has bought some good players this year and I hope my neighbours have some happier match days this year and nobody gets a beer on the head!
That does it for this series. Hope to be back with a new post someday soon.