It isn’t only the adventurous football traveller has been presented with an interesting set of challenges when considering Crotone, way down in the toe of Italy.
With local club FC Crotone having gained a first-ever promotion to Serie A in 2016, the likes of Juventus, Inter and Milan have had to work out the logistic of getting their over-indulged superstars down to this remote part of Calabria, once part of Ancient Greece.
Crotone Airport caved in under bankruptcy that same year. Ryanair later promised to start up inland flights from summer 2018. The nearest main airport of Lamezia Terme is more than 100km away. On match-day Sundays, regional public transport by road or rail is scant at best.
But those who make it here are in for a treat. The Stadio Ezio Scida, near Crotone train station and even closer to the bus terminal, is set beneath blue Calabrian skies and overlooked by the city’s main hospital. Towards the climax of the promotion season in 2016, a few supporters unable to find a ticket checked themselves in as patients in order to see the match below.
Crotone itself has bar quarter ranged around a long stretch of lively beach. Once home to Pythagoras, the town was founded by the Ancient Greeks as Kroton, and produced many an Olympic champion.
Football also came early to these parts. Founded as Società Sportiva Crotona, the later Pythagoreans of FC Crotone also once took the name of Società Sportiva Milone, after the Olympic champion wrestler Milo said to have once saved the life of Pythagoras.
First based at the Marinella by the seafront, the club moved to its current ground, the Ezio Scida, in 1946. Earlier that year, one wet January day, on its way to a friendly match with Castrovillari, the team bus had overturned and Crotone captain Scida had been crushed to death. City mayor and club president Silvio Messinetti, duly named the new stadium after him.
Scida and, until modern times, his successors, only knew regional or Serie C football. This changed from the 1990s onwards, when the Vrenna brothers, former Crotone nightclub owners Raffaele and Gianni, took over the club. With his fingers in broadcast media, tourism and gastronomy, the older Vrenna was a significant mover and shaker in the region. At Crotone, he became known as simply ‘Il Presidente’, thanks to his 30-plus years at the helm. In 2017, he passed the reins over to Gianni.
With more backing and influence, Crotone made skittish appearances in the second flight, becoming established after 2008. Looking set for long-sought promotion in 2016, Crotone were challenged by rivals Catanzaro – in the high court. Claiming the Vrenna brothers had suspicious links, the fellow Calabrians muddied the waters as Crotone concentrated on Serie A accession.
A draw at Modena in April 2016 sealed the issue, legalities settled in Crotone’s favour later that year. More than 30 years after Catanzaro’s relegation and seven seasons after Reggina’s, Crotone had become the third side from Calabria to reach Serie A.
The surprise defeat of Lazio provided Crotone with unexpected salvation at the end of their first top-flight campaign in 2017 – the same may be needed in the late spring of 2018.
Being reopened to international traffic in the summer of 2018, Crotone’s Sant’Anna Airport closed in 2016 following bankruptcy. It is located 15km (9.5 miles) south of town.
There are significantly more Ryanair flights, including from London Stansted, to Lamezia, 105km (65 miles) west of Crotone. Crotone-based Autolinee Romano runs a bus service Mon-Sat only, at 6am (direct) and mid-afternoon (via Catanzaro) from the airport, journey times to Crotone 2hr 15min/3hr. From Crotone, it runs at 11.20am or 1.20pm, and 8.10pm. There are more services between the airport and Catanzaro, again not Sundays.
The Romano terminal is on via Giuseppe di Vittorio close to the stadium. Romano also operates local bus services, tickets €1.50.
From Napoli Centrale, it’s a 5hr-6hr journey to Crotone by train, changing at Lamezia Terme and often at Catanzaro Lido as well. On Sundays, services are scant. Online, a single ticket from Naples is around €30-€40. The train station is at the same north-west end of town as the bus terminus and stadium, an easy 10min walk to the ground, 15-20min to the city centre.
The walk from stations/stadium to town is about 10min, 15-20min to the seafront.
Taxi Crotone (+39 328 432 7731) is based at focal viale Regina Margherita and offers airport transfers with Lamezia, rate around €100.
No tourist information website covers Crotone adequately.
The nearest lodging to the stadium is a modest B&B, La Pietra Preziosa, on via Bologna by the hospital. Half-hotel, half-guesthouse, Il Tulipano (via dei Iapigi, off via dei Greci, +39 329 047 9193) is on room-booking sites but near impossible to find, particularly in the dark. Opposite the main entrance for the Marrelli Hospital, its gate is tucked down a narrow alleyway. Once you get your bearings, you find the stadium an easy stroll nearby. Lodgings are modest but fair for the affordable price.
Opposite the bus station, the B&B Margherita is also well located for the stadium.
Tucked in from the beach, on via Reggio by the Punto Video Foto outlet, B&B Ilariè (+39 392 141 6963) is pretty basic.
The seafront buzzes all year round, viale Cristoforo Colombo and tributaries filled with busy bars. A pre-drinking crowd congregates by the beach and Saturday nights feel as if the whole city is out and ready to party.
The main pub, The Bounty, just off the boardwalk on traversa V Messina, packs on big-match nights, waiters serving burgers and pints of Maredsous and Tennent’s as everyone transfixes to the calcio action. Crotone shirts provide decoration. The music you hear outside is coming from Alcatraz No Way Out next door, a bar/club for a younger crowd.
On Colombo itself, La Casa Cantoniera by the statue of Rino Gaetano is a busy, popular restaurant with TV football prominent – but tables might be at a premium. Opposite, Archito pizzeria may be an easier choice, and also shows the game. La Gassa d’Amante next door attracts a party crowd for cocktails. Cos’è Pazz offers pizzas galore, and football, in less formal surroundings. In between the Columbus Natural Bar is more about organic produce without forgetting about the match.
Tastefully retro and playing classic tunes, sea-facing Mara is a must. Panzibar lends a Latin touch.
Set back from the seafront, La Tapería on via Interna Marina serves tapas, shows games and stages karaoke.
Halfway up from the beach to town at via Nuova Poggioreale 57, Nick Bar is a friendly, unpretentious spot with a large terrace, ideal for a morning’s peruse of the Gazzetta. Across the city centre, Bar La Scaletta on piazza Umberto I has a pretty elevated terrace and a TV in a side room.
Right in town, the biggest screen for football is found at the sleek Bar Manhattan, on via Tedeschi, with Crotone iconography amid the modern art. Ignore the map on its Facebook page – it’s on the corner with via Pantusa.