April 30th, 2017, Vialle delle Olipiade, Rome. My pal (The Beats) and I find ourselves in a cafe (Bar della Musica) for a few breakfast beers ahead of the main event that weekend………the Derby de la Capitale. Or in simpler terms, Roma v Lazio, our first venture to Serie A. The elation was at a record high, not even the “who the fuck are you” glares from the native Roma supporters around us or the barman and his poor manners towards our craply pronounced Italian beer orders could dampen our moods. We stuck out like a sore thumb in the beautiful Rome sunshine, no doubt. We were clearly football tourists but we did not care a jot. As mentioned in part one of this Italian double header, I have had a lifetime admiration for Serie A and this is as equally true for my pal too. We are both disciples of Football Italia on C4 and his claim to fame being he had a letter published in “Football Italia” magazine regarding the current where about of Ruben Sosa (pre-Google days). This was bucket list stuff for the both of us. We headed over Friday to Monday with the game being on Sunday at 12.30 for telly. But the whole experience of the trip was to leave us wanting more. However, the fitba was why we were there, and the fitba did not disappoint.
As stated above the match day experience started in bar, which gave us a great viewpoint for people watching while sinking a few Birra Morettis. The bar busied up, the walkway up to the stadium became a sea of “giallorossi” and of course our euphoria went through the roof. As we made our way down toward the famed “Curva Sud” it became apparent that this is no usual fitba walk. I am used to walking down Merkland Road East laughing at idiots who try to drive down it on a matchday , folk in the flats out for a fag asking who we are playing, or wondering what shite we are to be served up. What I am not used to is the whole Olympic vibe and I have to say, I was a big fan. There was the tennis stadium, the swimming centres, handball federation and numerous other sports represented on the short walk. There were the infinite number of statues and the whole Roman Empire look to the area too, all the while with the steel framework of the the stadium looming down and the end of the road. It was different, it was it was striking, it was the Stadio Olimpico and it was ace. Once inside (after a wrong gate “d’oh” moment) we grabbed a beer before ascending the steps up to our block. As we made our way up the twelve or so steps, the Olimpico started to open itself into view. Up until that moment I had never had that jaw dropping feeling. I was still quite the novice at the “groundhopping” malarkey at this point, but I had never felt like this in the Westfallenstadion, Old Trafford, Amsterdam Arena or the other handful of bigger grounds I had visited prior. (I have had it since though). We were faced with the “Curva Nord” housing the “visiting” Lazio fans and their multitudes of flags, the home sides fans were not too be out done in the flying of the colours stakes either, our home for the ninety minutes was a sea of red and yellow. The sun was shining, the Madonnina Centro Don Orione was looking down hills glimmering in the spring sun, the beer was chilled and two Scottish guys had forgotten anything else in the world existed. The teams appeared to a cacophony of sound with the Roma anthem in full swing, the red flags looked to have trebled in numbers and soared in amongst red flares and military-esque flash bangs. At the other end, the whole Lazio end was covered in a blue and white tifo but whatever noise was emanating from there was not audible due to the spine-tingling serenading of the “Giallorossi” by their devout followers.
The game itself did not let us down. Lazio came with a game plan an executed it perfectly all but ending their eternal rivals title push in the process. This leaving Juventus to head for six in a row. A Keita Balde opener for the “Biancoceleste” was cancelled out by Daniele de Rossi who struck home after a controversial penalty was awarded when Kevin Strootman clearly took a dive. In all honesty it was undeserved, and Lazio were not phased and went on to dominate proceedings taking the bragging rights with another from Keita goal and a Dusan Basta strike in between the Senegalese man’s double. Nothing more than deserved for the “visitors”. The game finished with a straight red for Michael Rudiger for a poor challenge, this compounding a grim day for the home side. Our first ninety minutes in Italy was a cracker, aided by great performances from Serjej Milinković-Savić, Senad Lujlic and the brace hero Keita. A special mention to Radja Nainggollan who was fired up throughout for Roma but his teammates were lacking his mentality and will to win. One thing we did not get was a Francesco Totti goal. The Roma legend came on with about twenty minutes to go in his final derby, but it was not to be for the grizzled campaigner.
The match may have been the main draw of the trip, but I fell for the city and the culture pretty quickly and I could guess it was the same for the Beats. We just wandered about getting our bearings on the Friday. As we meandered around the capital we took in some of the points of interest that we stumbled upon, basilicas and statues mostly. I also got my geeky compulsion of Hard Rock Cafes ticked off with another badge heading home to the collection, but this was to kick off a weekend fascination with Peroni Gran Riserva Rossa which was on tap there. Trust me when I say it is the nectar of the Roman gods . When it came to eating at night, we found a delightful stereotypical family run restaurant down a side street where we were welcomed like old friends. The food was superb (three courses worth), the Peroni flowed as did the Vino Rosso. A bottle of Amaretto was cracked, and we were plied with Limoncello (a bottles worth) as a palette cleanser which we were not charged for. A great couple of hours with fantastic treatment from the owner setting us up nicely to finish off the night in a bar watching Atalanta v Juventus on the box. The Saturday was the “tourist day” and we succeeded in walking our feet to destruction. We left the hotel at 6am with the pedometer set, first up the Colosseum, with further stops at the Circus Maximus, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, the truly magnificent Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and a whole lot more. By the time we had settled for end of day beers in a pub to watch Anthony Joshua defeat Vladimir Klitschko the Beats’ pedometer was telling us we had walked 52000 steps which equates to around 26 miles. Not bad for a days work. I may have done half of those steps as his stumpy legs probably take two steps for everyone of mine. No matter what though, the beers and a seat were well deserved along with a giant pizza each after the shift we put in. The time not spent at fitba was as satisfying as being at the Olimpico. I think it is safe to say that between the tourism, food, people and of course the fitba this weekend was to go down as one of the best sojourns either of us had the pleasure of taking on. But the goodness was not over. During the lift home from Aberdeen Airport from Mrs the Beats, she asked how it went. After seeing our clear glee at the previous three days she uttered these eight words. “Why don’t you make it a yearly thing?”
Fast forward approximately a year. Three days in Italy was upon us again. This time the main draw was the San Siro for AC Milan v Napoli. But this trip would be a lot different from Rome. For the simple reason we were to go to four games. However the plans continually changed, kick off times caused havoc as they were constantly moved for TV up until less than a week prior. What started out as Parma v Cittadella in Serie B on Friday. Brescia v Carpi also in the second tier, and Juventus v Sampdoria on Saturday and then the San Siro visit on the Sunday rounding off what would be a brilliant weekend changed dramatically. First game to move out of our reach was Juventus as it shifted to Sunday to a time where we could not head to Turin and the AC Milan game. I gave the decision away to the Beats and Milan v Napoli was the choice he made (which I had hoped would be the case). This leaving a hole in our Saturday. Then with a week to go the match at the Tardini moved back an hour. This does not sound like too much of an issue, but bang went an evening in Parma as that hour prevented us getting any public transport back to our Milan hotel post-match. The fitba gods however looked on us and gifted us Atalanta v Inter on the Saturday night. With a swift check of the trains and knowing Bergamo was not too far from Milan this was doable, especially with Brescia being so close in the Lombardy region too. Three matches it was to be.
We arrived in the exceptionally grand Central Station from Malpensa airport to bright April sunshine. With Parma not happening there was only one thing to do. Dump the bags and get our bearings. I.E walk around checking out what Milan had to offer and stop for beers every so often. What was apparent pretty quickly, Milan is horrifically graffitied. Only historic buildings such as Il Duomo, Sforza Castle and such like seem to escape the wrath of the wannabe substandard Banksy’s. In all honesty I found it to be a bit of a tip really. Friday did not really amount to a huge amount. We must have subconsciously decided to save our energy for our big day of travelling around the area the following day.
The fitba was upon us. Breakfast, a few beers and the train to Brescia was the plan. Then once there finding a bar that would show the Aberdeen v Motherwell Scottish Cup semi. The aforementioned fitba gods were on our side again as no bar would put it on or had the capabilities to. This being a blessing with Derek McInnes blotting his copy book once again in a disgraceful 3-0 do in from the Lanarkshire men. I think being in Italy stunted the rage of exiting the Scottish Cup so meekly and all was forgotten as we traipsed around Brescia, which going by the areas we saw was a quaint wee place. After a whetting our whistles in the sun we headed for Stadio Mario Rigamonti. We arrived at the ground and purchased tickets for the “Curva Nord” housing the Ultras. When we arrived, it turned out the Curva was a glorified scaffolding sitting in front of what used to be the original terrace which now was in such a ramshackle state it was condemned. In a strange way I like these unexpected details as it just adds to the experience. Once in position toward the back of the “stand” we were greeted with fantastic views of the adjacent Alps and hillside towns. An great picturesque surprise added into our first Serie B experience. Now for the match. Everyone knows of the reputation of fitba in Italy being corrupt as, this match did not favours to expunging this. To this day we think this match was rigged. The chances spurned throughout the match were adding up. Easy chances too. Shooting didn’t seem to be flavour of the day from either side. The match was played at a slow pace. There was a incredible penalty miss from Andrea Caracciolo which raised our suspicions to absolute positivity. Then bizarrely the big man scored a peach. But did he mean it? A lazy leg thrown leading to what turned out to be a great over the shoulder finish. This was late on, meaning if the game was fixed Carpi possibly had to score and score soon. Low and behold Brescia’s defence went all to pot for the remaining eight minutes leaving Frederico Melchiorri to blast home an equalizer in stoppage time. Truly surreal goings on at the Rigamonti but who doesn’t like talking points after the game. Next stop Bergamo…..
Brescia-Carpi 1-1: gli highlights – YouTube See the pen miss for yourself
After a train journey on a broken train that trundled the forty or so kilometres between cities taking over twice the scheduled forty minutes we arrived at Bergamo station. With no time to do anything but hightail it up to the Stadio Atleti Azzurri to catch kick off, we managed to work out which bus to take meaning we saved ourselves some time and such a rush. While on the bus it was hard to ignore the police presence all the way up to the ground. The sky was flashing blue, there were Italian equivalents of Black Mariah’s on what seemed to be every street corner , police motorbikes were nipping in and out of traffic everywhere you looked . The nearer we got to the ground the more streets seemed to be closed and blocked off by fully geared up riot police. This was where the Inter fans were to make their way to the ground as we found out after jumping off the bus. In terms of police presences it is easily one of the biggest I had seen at any game. Once in the ground we found a beer, which was being sold from a fold up table selling bottles of Peroni from a fridge plugged into multiple extension cables. The ground was bustling by this point with very little space for us to park ourselves. We decided to head to the very back of the concrete mass that was the Curva Nord, and what a great choice this was as our view was excellent. With Atalanta chasing a European place and a win being enough achieve this, their fans were in fine voice welcoming the players onto the pitch with a banner wishing them luck in their quest for that Euro spot. This was obviously accompanied by the obligatory flares and pyro show, it would not be the same without them. But their support did not end there. They backed their team for the full ninety minutes in admirable style and to this day are one of the best home supports I have ever seen. Fantastic stuff. The game was 0-0 but it was a very good nil nil. Inter had a forward line that oozed goals with Ivan Perisic, Mauro Icardi and Rafinha but Atalanta defended like warriors that night with Andrea Massiello especially putting in one of the best defensive performances I have seen in the flesh. A behemoth in the air, and cool, calm and composed when his work needed done on the deck. I do not remember him going to ground at any point. All three of the Inter attacking threat tried and failed to get past him. It really was a defensive masterclass. One that we still speak about to this day. 0-0s are not the what you want but we really couldn’t complain about this. What we could complain about was the fact we could not find a taxi outside the ground and with a the train being tight and the last of the night, we had to run the full 2 miles to the train station which was no easy task with a days worth of “birra” in our bellies. We reached the train, the Beats being slightly behind me, as soon as his arse hit the seat the train was off. Skin o’ the teeth and sweaty messes type stuff. We made it back to Milan where we went for an obligatory night cap and a pizza.
As a kid I always wanted to head to San Siro. There was just something about it when watching matches on Channel 4. Maybe it was the fact Milan always had great players, or it could have been the atmosphere always seemed electric. Was it George Weahs goal? Or was it that I was a big Paolo Maldini fanboy. Whatever the reason it was irrelevant as here was my chance. The dream was finally becoming reality. With the kick off in the afternoon we took on some sight seeing in the morning which was mostly made up of following the Roman trail round the city which led to us ending up at Colonne di San Lorenzo, the 2nd century columns found at the Basillica of San Lorenzo. By this point we were choking for a beer and decided to head to the nearest pub, which just so happened to be across the road. What a place it was too. A craft beer dive bar called Tutti Fritti. A pub who’s toilets give the famous CBGBs toilets a run for their money in the disgusting stakes. This place seemed so out of place being twenty five yards from history dating back approximately nineteen centuries but it was there and we indulged. Grapefruit Spaceman, Czech Norris and the awesome Workpiece-Chocolate Stout were just a selection of beers we chucked down our necks. A great way to entertain ourselves pre game, and before we knew it it was time to head to the San Siro in a taxi as we were cutting it fine. As the car approached the ground this enormous structure which looked like an oil rig unveiled its self to us. The famous dark red iron work and lighting rig looking roof was in front of us. As in Rome this was a jaw dropper moment. This was Serie A , this was our childhood dreams facing us. This was fucking fantastic. The stalls outside were crammed, the black and red masses were shooting the shit over a beer, grabbing a bite to eat , getting merchandise . We stopped to take in the atmosphere, there was a definite buzz about the place. As we entered the famous old ground we were somewhat staggered by the state of the joint .It’s neglected, it’s dirty, it has smashed toilets, broken stairs, smashed tiles on the ground and the wall and pretty much in disrepair. I did not expect to find the place so dilapidated. However all this was quickly forgotten as soon as we were out in the open. What a sight to be greeted with. The place was rocking, it was as good as full (barring the top tier which is now shut due to subsiding) , the Curva Sud was colourful and noisy, it was just exactly how I expected it to be. My only grievance was we were underneath the Napoli support who were completely out of sight from us. Interestingly though we seemed to be in a neutral area where there was plenty of local colours but also the light blue of Napoli. The game kicked off with an array of stars in front of us. The hosts were youthful but had Donnarrumma in between the sticks, Çalhanoğlu up front and up and coming Ivorian Kessie also in their ranks. Napoli had Mertens, Insigne, Hamšík, Koulibaly and Reina. It had the makings of a good game. Again for the second time of the weekend we were served up a blank and again it was not a poor game, but it was not as good as the previous days nil-nil. For the second year in a row we had witnessed the death of a title push. Like Roma , Napoli needed to win to stay in contention. Instead, Juventus took a step closer to seven in a row. Not much to write home about during the ninety minutes, it was played at a high tempo but there was not much in terms of chances. On random thing of note was at half time. There was some different kind of entertainment. We saw Geri Halliwell miss a penalty. That’s right a Spice Girl missing from 12 yards. The reason being that “A League of their Own” were filming. If I remember rightly the keepers were Bruce Grobbelaar and David Seaman. Then there was Jamie Redknapp, Freddy Flintoff, some other guy and Geri with Ruud Gullit also kicking about. Things you do not expect to see at a fitba match. Another detail to this magic weekends story, a rigged game and a Spice Girl Diana Rossing a penalty, who would have thought?
Again, a year passed and we were back in Italy, this time our trip was based around Fiorentina v Inter with Bologna v Juventus chucked in for a Sunday double header. Our other game was to be Livorno v Venezia on the Saturday. The TV companies were not in our favour again and Livorno moved to Monday night. Surprisingly though our Serie A plans remained unscathed. As always we arrived on Friday morning and were on our usual beers and bearings quest, which in fact turned into a full city quest. This despite the Beats being the walking dead with every symptom attached to Coronavirus for the weekend, now we think back, was it?????. Florence truly is a stunning city. The views from Piazzale Michelangelo over the whole city hammer home how beautiful it is. The bridges over the Arno, especially Ponte Vecchio are great. We just wandered and got through most of the top sights on the first day. This was helped by a lot of the top sights are not far from each other. The only thing we really missed out on was Michaelangelos David which is a pre book affair and we couldn’t do Saturday or Sunday. We may have missed out on one of the main events in the city but it was a excellent day none the less, and I racked up another Hard Rock Café to boot. Saturday started with one thing that was left that we fancied and it turned out to be spectacular, Museum of Opera of Saint Maria of Fiore. A place chocked with renaissance art and sculptures, a lot of which are from buildings from throughout the city and many from the Duomo across the road. Who says fitba fans are all lager louts? We can be ones for culture too, and tell you who the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are named after. From here we went for a drink and came to the decision that we must get a game that day. Over a Moretti we checked the fixtures. Serie A was a no go as only Torino and Frosinone were playing at home(v Atalanta and Roma respectively). They were logistically a no go. Serie B and C were looked at and we were face with the other side of the country by many matches, Foggia, Pescara being examples. Then we had the too far north, Cremonese , Carpi, Monza . Closer teams such as Empoli, Siena, Arezzo were either away or on another day . We looked to be screwed, but being the glass half full guys we are we went to the train station to check train times against towns. Imolese v Vis Pesaro in Serie C was seriously considered, but a train to Imola was cutting it decidedly fine for kick off. Then we saw somewhere on a train board that we had seen at home when checking the days games. Perugia, who were hosting Cosenza in Serie B and it was a fast train too. Sorted. In typical fashion the train was delayed due to some incident on the line, this was explained to us by the extremely helpful lady in the ticket booth so we decided sack it off due to the fact we only had 25 minutes to get from Station to ground and going in blind. We opted to have another beer around the corner in a café. As we sat there the fitba addicts came out in us and we decided “fuck it, lets do it”, we nuked the beers, grabbed a carryout for the train and boarded the train not knowing if what we were doing was even possible. Two hours later were slowed on approach to Perugia and we saw the Renato Curi and thought we couldn’t be that far away once at the station. The plan was to just jump in a taxi and fortunately there was one sitting there as if awaiting our arrival. In we leaped and within ten minutes we were there, but I suspect the driver thought we were away fans as he dropped us in amongst the Cosenza support. A quick nip around the ground and we found a ticket booth, obtained our briefs and entered for our opening match of our weekend. As we climbed the decaying steps with holes big enough for a child’s foot to get lost we realised it was blowing a hoolie and was bitterly cold despite the sun glowing down on us. Not quite Arbroath or Lossiemouth type cold but enough to make us realise we were under dressed. It was a shame to see the ground largely closed. A long way from their Serie A days with the entire wing stand shut and the opposite behind goal stand two thirds shut with the other third housing the respectable sized away support, Respectable as in Cosenza is ten hours on the train and eight hours on the road from Perugia and there must have been 600-700 there. Like Brescia the previous year the views were bonnie. Same idea as the Rigamonti with the hills and the houses scattered across them. The game was run of the mill. It had its moments, a good few yellow cards were handed out for the game being played in a mannies fitba spirit. Cosenza took the three points back the 450 miles after Mirko Bruccini buried a penalty in front of the jubilant travelling fans. The better team won despite the form guide suggesting Perugia should have won. On leaving the ground we were in luck as again we found a solitary taxi to take us back for our train. We got back to Florence and yours truly ended up a bit worse for wear on the Vino Rossa.
Sunday came and it was off to Bologna, the home of the oldest university in the Western World. Stadio Renato Dall’Ara is another on of those grounds from childhood. Who could forget the tower in the stand, whether they saw it at Italy 90 or on Football Italia. It really is a fantastic piece of fitba architecture and we watched the game from right underneath it. Before the fitba we had one thing that must be done, have an authentic Bolognese. As we wandered through the masses of red brick architecture, we found a café and did the needful. It was sublime and washed down with a couple of Ichnusas. Pre game we had another beer in a Bologna supporters café and caught the end of Sampdorias 1-0 win over Cagliari, the crowds grew outside and as always I found myself in nothing else matters mode. However as we battled the ginormous crowds to get in, never in my thoughts was the possibility of the embarrassing moment that was about to occur. When finding our seat we had to squeeze past a few people. One of which was a cross between a human and a walrus. As I got to this corpulent man(atee) he intentionally stuck his belly into me sending me airborne down two rows over the top of another punter and showering everyone in the vicinity with my drink. I would loved to have seen my face in the aftermath. I felt like a fucking imbecile despite it not being my fault. I hastily scurried off with the Beats trying to stifle his laughter before asking if I was ok. Amazingly I didn’t have a scratch or an ache. I said earlier we watched from under the tower, the reason being, I was too embarrassed to sit in my seat, so we stood up the back which worked out great for us with the incredible view of this old bowled stadium. My mishap was soon a thing of the past once referee Mr Calvarese go proceedings underway. Juventus took the points with a scrappy 1-0 victory after substitute Paulo Dybala found himself in acres of space to smash home. The space caused by the home side concentrating far too much on stifling Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese man was largely anonymous throughout, but was he? The fact he was multi man marked out of the game created openings elsewhere. Even when he is poor he can make things happen and because of this victory he was one step closer to another title added to his already silver laden career. Back to Florence we went….
Mentioned earlier was the fact I was a Paolo Maldini fan boy as a nipper, but there was only one player who surpassed him in my admiration stakes. A certain Argentinian called Gabriel Omar Batistuta was my biggest hero as a kid (out with Aberdeen FC). When I looked the TV Times during the week to see who was on the box on Sunday and it was Fiorentina it made my week. He is up there with the best centre forwards of all time. I remember watching him silence the Nou Camp in the 96/97 seasons UEFA Cup, chest, knee to create space then thundering volley leaving Vitor Baia clutching at air. What makes this goal stick out is I watched it with my cousin who had told me he would watch my boys clubs Scottish Cup tie against Sheddocksley at the weekend. When Batigol scored he did the finger to the mouth “Sshhhhh” celebration as you could hear a pin drop . At that point I said to my cousin, “I’ll score the winner on Sunday and do that”. A bold statement considering I was a centre half. Guess what, the winner I did score and in the last minute too. Cue my shooshing the oppositions coaches, mums, dads and dogs in sodden field in Aberdeen as my team mates piled me to near suffocation. One of my greatest childhood memories, in fact my greatest. Back to Tuscany and here we were outside the Artemio Franchi(named after the man who handed Willie Miller the Cup Winners Cup in 83), scene of many of Batistuta’s one hundred and sixty seven Viola goals. The streets were full, the stadium was lit up in a soft purple type mood lighting which looked awesome. We were ready for what on paper should be a cracking game and a cracking game it was. 3-3 it ended. We took our place behind the goal right next to the Inter fans who seemed to penned in like cattle between two corrugated iron fences. Within a minute the home side were in the lead through an unfortunate de Vrij own goal, five minutes later it was even Stevens when Vecino scored a volley that Lafont really should have kept out, Inter went in to half time in the driving seat after Politano scored a twenty yard curling effort into the bottom corner. Ivan Perisic put the game out with Fiorentina’s reach from the penalty spot on the hour and Inter were cruising. Or so most people thought. Unfortunately for us we made a sharp exit and missed an incredible comeback with Muriel striking a 35 yard howitzer of a free kick to take Inters lead to one. Incredibly Fiorentina were awarded a penalty for handball in 90+11 which we did not know about until we were back at the hotel. Never leave games early. Another cracking weekend in Italy for the two of us despite the Beats serious ailments(medical care once back in the North East). Far play to him for making the trip as he could easily have pulled out. He really was in a bad way. Ill always be thankful for his willingness to not let the side down. I am sure he would say it was worth it. As we journeyed home 2020s trip was planned. We would hopefully head to Juventus and Sampdoria…..
Corona obviously extinguished all hope of a fourth escapade and rendered any travel and fitba as kaput. We were booked up for the Derby Della Mole at the Juventus Stadium followed by a fitba bucket list tick of Stadio Luigi Ferraris for Sampdoria v SPAL. But the world fell to its knees and we stayed home like the rest of civilization. A kick in the bollocks yes, but I am a glass half full guy though. In 2021 or 22 when it becomes a possibility, we will go a couple of times or maybe for a week and catch a few matches to make up for lost time. The Turin/Genoa double header will be first up since we missed out last time round. However, we may not get the Juventus v Torino derby as Torino are currently rotten and may go down this season. From there Italy is our oyster, we do have a wee bucket list between us, San Paolo for Napoli, Bentegodi for one of the Verona teams and we have talked about trips to Foggia and Cremona to Pino Zaccheria and Giovanni Zini respectively. The reason for the latter “unfashionable” teams is they are names we remember from the early days of Football Italia”. As simple a reason as that. On a personal level the Tardini awaits me as Parma were my team when I was a nipper, I also quite fancy an Island trip to Cagliari, Palermo, Catania . To be honest though, I would go anywhere, if the annual trips continue, I will never complain if there are adventures to new stadia. One day when he is old enough Wee Man can get his Serie A cherry popped. We may have been halted by the shit that has conquered the world recently, but it has not quenched my thirst for more games and trips to Italy. So, for now. I will sit tight passport in hand awaiting the all clear for “calcio”.