This is a guest blog and photo journal written by our traveler Sonya Kondratenko. Sonya shot all of the pictures on location in Genoa, Italy.
When you think of Italian football rivalries, you might think of the derbies in Rome, Milan or Turin. But there’s another fixture you shouldn’t miss — the Derby della Lanterna in Genoa.
Genoa is a gritty port city on Italy’s northern coast. It’s got a whole lot of history and an authentic charm, but I had an extra special reason for visiting.
When I was growing up, my hometown of Baltimore and Genoa were partnered as sister cities. So I was always curious to see it for myself. As my love for football evolved, it became my dream to watch a game at Stadio Luigi Ferraris – or Marassi as it’s known by locals.
I was the first to arrive in Genoa so I checked into the hotel and set off to find the best espresso in town.
What’s nice about Genoa is it doesn’t feel very touristy.
There’s a sense of authenticity around every corner, and I took note of all the Genoa and Sampdoria flags flying from apartment buildings as I explored the city.
You could feel the anticipation for the derby everywhere, and this only grew stronger as the evening went on.
At night I joined the rest of the group and we went to a pub filled with locals. As you’d expect, the derby was the main topic of conversation. And there was plenty of banter between the owners and the regulars.
The excitement was building and we were going to be right in the middle of it all.
Genoa is a city of endless little streets, which makes it very fun to explore and easy to get lost in time.
We spent Saturday wandering the city before grabbing lunch at a cafe in Piazza De Ferrari. Then we headed towards the stadium for aperitivi. Where we quickly noticed we weren’t the only ones visiting from abroad.
It was great to meet other groundhoppers in town, but we had to leave a little earlier than the others. Because Homefans had organised an amazing pre-match tour of the Luigi Ferraris stadium!
The Ferraris is one of Italy’s oldest and most unique stadiums. Mostly because it’s so different from the normal “oval and running-track” style stadiums you see across the country.
Genoa’s stadium is built in the English style, and their history offers a strong clue as to why. The club was formed by Brits in 1893 and Genoa CFC stands for Genoa Cricket and Football club!
We were guided through the press room and the television area and took 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 in before the players lineup.
We then 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. All before heading to the hospitality area for a full spread of Ligurian specialties (yes, lots of pesto!) before the game.
Genoa and Sampdoria were in a relegation battle and the tension produced one of the best atmospheres I’ve experienced in Italy.
Just before kickoff, the Genoa curva set off fireworks and both sides showed off impressive tifos. The stadium was completely encased in smoke, with dueling chants battling each other from across the compact stadium.
Genoa were desperate for a win tonight. Not just because of the relegation fight, but because they hadn’t beaten Sampdoria for five years.
The match went scoreless in the first half, but Sampdoria managed to grab an 85th minute winner. Meaning more pain for the Genoa fans, and jubilation in the Sampdoria curva.
The fans around us were dejected, but our end to the evening was to be a little brighter. As we scaled the Sampdoria stairs across from the stadium and reflected on a wonderful derby 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 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 city center.
The only thing left on my list was a walk across the city to La Lanterna, the lighthouse the derby takes its name from. So we walked across the entire city, passing the port and stopping to take photos along the way.
Finally, we made it to La Lanterna just as the sun started to set. It was a magical and meaningful way to end our trip here. On a weekend where I’d seen one of Europe’s most passionate derbies and got a good understanding of Genoa and its culture.
I’ll never forget the amazing food, the new friends I met, and our all-access tour of the stadium I’d always dreamt of visiting.
This is a guest blog and photo journal written by our traveler Sonya Kondratenko.
Sonya is a photographer and content creator with several years of experience working in European football. She’s an avid groundhopper with a passion for all things Italian. You can find her on Instagram at @sonyakarate