January 7, 2020
This is a guest blog written by our traveler Sonya Kondratenko about her experience with Homefans at the Derby della Lanterna. Sonya is an American photographer and content creator. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, she has spent the last several years working in European football. She is an avid groundhopper and stadium enthusiast, with a passion for all things Italian.
When you think of Italian football rivalries, the derbies of Rome, Milan and Turin might immediately come to mind, but there’s another fixture you shouldn’t miss — the Derby della Lanterna in Genoa. Located on Italy’s northern coast, Genoa is a port city, with a bit of grit and a lot of history.
When I was growing up, my hometown of Baltimore and Genoa were partnered as sister cities. I was always curious to visit Genoa and compare the similarities to Baltimore. Over the years, my love for football evolved and it became my dream to watch a game at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, also known as the Marassi.
The stadium, built in 1911, is one of the oldest and most unique in Italy. The traditional Italian municipal stadium design isn’t present here, it’s not shaped like an oval, nor is there a track around the pitch. Instead the Marassi takes the form of an English style football stadium, afterall Genoa CFC stands for Genoa Cricket and Football Club. Genoa CFC was originally as a sporting club for Brits abroad, but has now become Italy’s oldest operating football club with over 125 years of activity.
While UC Sampdoria is Italy’s newest continuously active club, it still has a rich history of its own. Sampdoria was formed in 1946 after the merger of two separate clubs, Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria.
Friday – The first day
I was the first one to arrive in Genoa, so I checked into the hotel and set off to find the best espresso in the city before the others arrived. What’s nice about a destination like Genoa is that it doesn’t feel very touristy, there is a sense of authenticity around every corner. I explored the historic center a bit on my own, taking note of all the Genoa and Sampdoria flags flying from apartments and buildings. You could feel the anticipation for the derby throughout the city.
At night, I joined the rest of the group for a night out in the center of Genoa. We went to a pub that was filled with only locals for some drinks and conversation. There was a playful rivalry between the owners of the bar and some of their regular customers over who they support, excitement for the derby was building!
Saturday – Derby Day
We met up in the morning for a walk around the center of the city, and then grabbed lunch at a cafe in Piazza De Ferrari. Genoa is made up of endless little streets, which make it very fun to explore and easy to get lost in time.
Before the match, we visited a local bar across from the stadium for aperitivi, we quickly found we weren’t the only ones there visiting from abroad. One of the highlights of the weekend was meeting other groundhoppers from around Europe who were all in Genoa to watch the derby!
About three hours before kickoff, we headed to the towards the ground for a behind the scenes look of what goes on during a match day. Since the Marassi is home to both Genoa and Sampdoria, there is a special energy both inside and outside the stadium.
We were guided through the press room and the television area, before taking a peek inside Genoa’s locker room. Everything was set up and ready to go for the derby, so it was amazing to see all the work that goes on before the players lineup. We headed up through the tunnel and out to the pitch, where we got to take in the atmosphere and meet some of Genoa’s players as they arrived. Finally we headed to the hospitality area inside the stadium for a full spread of Ligurian specialties (yes, lots of pesto!) before taking our seats.
Genoa and Sampdoria find themselves in a relegation battle, making the environment even more tense. The atmosphere of this match was one of the of best I’ve experienced in Italy. The stadium feels intimate, you’re close to the pitch and there’s not much separating each stand.
Tonight Genoa is the home team, but they haven’t managed to find a win over Samp for 3 seasons, with their last win coming in May 2016. Just before kickoff fireworks are set off by the supporters in the Genoa curva, with both sides showing off impressive tifo. The stadium was completely encased in smoke, with dueling chants battling each other from across the stadium.
The match went scoreless in the first half, but ended 1-0 with a 85 minute goal from Sampdoria. After the match, we went for a walk up the famous Sampdoria stairs across from the stadium, a perfect way to end the night.
Want to join us on the next Derby della Lanterna in May 2020? We have 12 spots available for this trip. View trip.
Sunday – The last day
For our third and final day, I made it my mission to find some of the best Genovese street food and of course, more espresso. I ate my way through the city, finding one of of my favorite foods, farinata (similar to a pancake, but maybe with chickpea flour) and piesta (a small piece of focaccia filled with fresh pesto) in the center of the city.
The only thing left on my list to do was to walk across the city to visit La Lanterna, the lighthouse the derby is named after. We walked across the entire city, passing the port and stopping to take photos along the way. We made it to La Lanterna just as the sun started to set, a magical and meaningful way to end the trip!
Not only did I have an amazing matchday experience at one of Europe’s most passionate derbies, I left Genoa feeling like I had a good understanding of the city and the culture. I’ll never forget the amazing food, new friends and the behind the scenes
Espresso and all things coffee related:
Piazza Cinque Lampadi, 71R
Piesta and fresh pesto:
Via S. Pietro della Porta, 1R
Farinata and of course, loads of focaccia:
Focacceria San Luca
Via S. Luca, 33
The lighthouse for which the derby is named:
Rampa della Lanterna, 16126
This is a guest blog written by our traveler Sonya. Have you traveled with us and would you also like to write a blog about your experience? Please contact us via [email protected]