Chievo represent the suburb of the same name, called by the Romans ‘Hill of the Magic Wood’, 4km west of town tucked inside the river Adige. Their fairytale rise from park football to Serie A was even backed by a local cake company. With Chievo maintaining their top-flight status, this rather odd city rivalry was revived after Hellas gained promotion in 2013-14. Now with the relegation of Hellas in 2018, the Derby della Scala may have to wait in the wings for another season or two.
The shared stage is the Stadio Bentegodi, home of Hellas since it opened in 1963, and renovated to stage Belgium’s group games for Italia ’90. By then, Chievo had already moved in, soon after gaining professional status. The fact that they then climbed up to Serie A, and stayed there, is simply the stuff of fairytales. ‘Donkeys will fly when we meet Chievo in Serie A,’ the Hellas fans used to sing – so Chievo adopted the nickname ‘The Flying Donkeys’ (‘Mussi volanti’) as a source of pride.
The day when they did meet in Serie A – having met a handful of times in Serie B from 1994 to 1999 – came in 2001. Hellas fans occupied most of the Bentegodi, particularly their own Curva Sud, while Chievo’s were allocated the traditional away end, the Curva Nord. Both sets fly yellow and blue flags, the colours of the city of Verona adopted by both clubs. 2006 World Cup winner Mauro Camoranesi scored the vital third goal for Hellas in a 3-2 win that November.
Adrian Mutu’s goal wasn’t enough the following March to prevent a 2-1 Chievo victory. Hellas went down that May, and stayed there – in fact, sank even deeper – over ten long years, while Chievo were that season’s success story, topping the league for a few crazy, donkey-flying weeks, and ending up with a European place.
Since then, Chievo have been happy underachievers, attracting four-figure crowds to the Bentegodi and notching season after season in Serie A. Hellas and their notoriously right-wing following continue to make a noise on derby day, although their main gripe is with Veneto rivals Vicenza, who came within a whisker of Serie A in 2015.
Verona Villafranca (Catullo) Airport is 5km (3 miles) south-west of Verona, connected by ATV Aerobus (€6) to Verona train station every 20mins, journey time 15mins. ATV also runs the city bus network – it’s €1.30 for a single ticket (€2 on board), €4 for a day pass. A taxi (+39 045 532 666) from the airport should cost about €26-€30 to town.
Conveniently halfway between station and stadium and walking distance to either, the Hotel Piccolo and adjoining Martini are part of the Hotels Verona group that also includes the nearby Porta Palio just over the stream. All are functional three-stars. Across from the Porta Palio, the Hotel San Marco is a spa hotel with pool.
In town, tourist magnet Verona has plenty of hotels, though all might be booked for summer’s opera season. All within a short walk of the Arena are four-star Colomba d’Oro, the standard San Micheli, the comfortable Bologna and the low-cost Albergo Trento and Hotel Torcolo. The Hotel Europa is a handy three-star in the same convenient vicinity.
Once an unpretentious football pub, the Re Carlo da Barca (via Carlo Cattaneo 12/corner vicolo Disciplina) has upped the ante on its gastronomic offering without losing sight of its twin attractions of regularly rotated fine beers and TV sports. Nearby Hartigan’s, tucked inside courtyard vicoletto Disciplina off vicolo Disciplina, is the main downtown Irish bar. Snakebites with McEwan’s are among the €5.50 pints.
Also big on beer is the Caffè Anselmi on piazza delle Erbe while, alongside, bloom provides plenty of screen action and outdoor seating.
Equally upscale is Vini Zampieri, with fine wines and snacks, and football paraphernalia amid the bookish decor.
Finally, don’t miss a peek into the Patagonia (via San Nicolò 43), an ice-cream parlour themed after Argentine football, with beautiful old covers of ‘El Gráfico’ and images of Maradona on the walls.