By- Claudia Quesito

When you think about sports in Italy, a single one stands out: calcio (soccer). Soccer is by far the most practiced, followed, talked about, loved (or hated) sport in the country. Teams like Inter (known abroad as Internazionale), Milan, and Juventus are known and admired all over the world, and players like Buffon, Totti, Pirlo, Cannavaro, and many others have gained celebrity status.

Women’s soccer is also starting to emerge, but it is not even comparable to its men’s counterpart yet. Soccer is played by virtually every boy in the country at some point or another in his life, either in soccer classes or impromptu games in random places (like beaches, school playgrounds, and piazzas), or just by kicking the ball with a couple of friends.

There are many other popular sports (Italy has a long-winning tradition in several disciplines), although their players are not as famous, revered, and gossiped about as their colleagues calciatori. Let’s place these other sports under the spotlight for once, though. 

There is ciclismo (cycling), with the famous Giro d’Italia that runs up and down the entire country; automobilismo (car racing), where le Rosse—meaning, the Ferraris—rule the roost; sci (skiing), pallacanestro (basketball), pallavolo (volleyball), rugby, and tennis. There is also the less-practiced scherma (fencing), atletica leggera (track and field), pallanuoto (water polo), and canotaggio (rowing).

Although these are not super popular, the Azzurri (the Italian athletes who compete in international games like the Olympics) often achieve good placements. But in the end, nothing competes with calcio. During i Mondiali di calcio (the FIFA World Cup), the entire nation stops during the games in which the Azzurri play and everyone talks, talks, and talks about them. To watch soccer, and sports in general, there are numerous TV programs, broadcast either daily or weekly.

There are also three national newspapers devoted entirely to sports. One of these is La Gazzetta dello Sport, a.k.a. la rosa, from the color of its pages, and you will inevitably find it in bars everywhere. So, are Italians sports players or just enthusiasts who follow sports from their couch? The majority probably fall in the second category, although more and more kids practice some kind of sport or physical activity at or after school at least on a weekly basis.

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