Derby della Lanterna lights up cradle of calcio

Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game

Cradle of the modern Italian game, Genoa is enjoying a renaissance after years in the doldrums. Improvements to this cramped, historic sea port have given the city a higher international profile, while local rivals Genoa and Sampdoria have both recently been occupying spots in Serie A.

The Derby della Lanterna between them is named after the historic lighthouse once overseen by the uncle of Christopher Columbus. The fixture itself echoes tradition and bitter friction.

In 2015, Genoa should have enjoyed a rare foray into Europe, only to file the paperwork late to the authorities and let in the club below them: Sampdoria.

No, it’s not quite the golden days of 1992 when Sampdoria were European Cup finalists and Genoa reached the semis of the UEFA Cup but football here is back where it belongs – with the elite.

One of a handful of high-profile groundshares, along with Milan, Rome and Verona, Genoa’s Luigi Ferraris Stadium should be hosting both clubs for some time to come – plans for undercapitalised Sampdoria to move out to Sestri Ponente by Genoa Airport only reached the early stages. Italy’s failed bid to host Euro 2016 also ended dreams of a redeveloped Luigi Ferraris.

The Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club were formed in 1893 by and for British expatriates. The most notable among them was a certain James Spensley, who opened the club’s football section and initiated the inaugural Italian Football Championship between Genoa and clubs from another venerable football hub, Turin.

Spensley, a doctor from Stoke Newington who would die tending enemy soldiers on the battlefield in 1915, kept goal as Genoa won six of the first seven Italian championships. Two of their competitors in the burgeoning top flight were Andrea Doria and Sampierdarenese, also local.

Originally based in Campasso on the city’s western outskirts, the Genoa club moved to Marassi, on the east bank of the Bisagno river, where a ground was opened in 1911.

This became a regular stage for Italian internationals, renamed the Luigi Ferraris after another legendary Genoa player to perish in World War I. Andrea Doria played on a more modest pitch alongside, occasionally meeting Sampierdarenese in the Ligurian leagues.

Merged, then separated, then merged again as Sampdoria in 1946, the new club moved into the Luigi Ferraris.

Thus began one of the key city rivalries in the Italian game: the passionate, colourful Derby della Lanterna. The run-up to the match is frantic but can equally be comedic. Before the 2013-14 derby, Genoa youth-team coach Luca De Prà was caught spying on a Sampdoria training session. Decked out in full camouflage gear, De Prà was found hidden in the bushes overlooking the practice ground.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and timings

Genoa’s Cristoforo Colombo airport is 7.5km (five miles) west of the city centre, linked by Volabus (every 30-45mins, journey time 30-45mins) that calls at both main stations, Principe and Brignole, set either side of the old town centre, Centro Storico. Tickets (€6 on board, €5 online) include one onward journey. Tickets for the bus network and one-line metro that connects the two stations are otherwise €1.50, €4.50 for a 24hr pass.

Brignole station is almost walking distance from the stadium.

taxi (+39 010 5966) from the airport carries a fixed rate of €7/€8 for each person to each station, provided there are three people travelling.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

Nightlife is concentrated in the atmospheric tangle of streets of the historic centre, such as piazza delle Erbe, where you find gin and craft-beer temple 28 Erbe and cocktail spot Gradisca, and nearby piazza San Bernardo, courtyard location of classic evening-only Bar Moretti. Near San Bernardo, Mangiabuono (vico Vegetti 3r) is a great little pesto-with-everything restaurant run by a rugby-obsessed Anglophile. 

Close by, just the other side of Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, Scurreria on the street of the same name reguarly lines up a rotating first XI of craft brews and screens games, too. Also on this side of the Old Town, the Britannia on vico della Casana (signposted off via Roma) is one of a couple of faux pubs, though doesn’t make TV football a priority.

From there, the other side of the Doge’s Palace, the Hofbräuhaus on via Boccardo has long been a favourite for Bavarian beers and big-screen action. Nearby in the alleyway of the same name, La Coccagna is the cosy outlet for local artisanal brewers Maltus Faber. Closed mid-afternoons and Tuesdays.

Down at the seafront, don’t miss the friendly Fabrique bar with its Samp and Inter paraphernalia by the Galata Museo del Mare in the docks. TV football a main feature.

 More mainstream but still with a winning sea view from the terrace, the 752 Pub near the Aquarium is decked out in Heineken green, which means it also serves Sardinian Ichnusa and Moretti, under the same umbrella. Open until 3am but closed Mondays, it has a TV or two dotted about inside.

The other Brit-style hostelry is the Tartan Pub, close to Brignole station at via Invrea 13, which does make a point of showing matches.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the stadium and city centre

Visit Genoa has a hotel database.

Near Brignole station close to the stadium, the Best Western Moderno Verdi Genoa is a comfortable if functional four-star. In a quiet location on the stadium side of Brignole a 15min walk to the ground, il Borgo di Genova is a stylish, no-smoking B&B. Back across the rails, the Hotel Brignole offers three-star rooms at a convenient location.

Halfway between Brignole and the sea, the upscale, boutique Meliá on via Corsica comprises an elegant spa, 24hr gym and Ligurian restaurant. Close to the funicular, the colourful Cairoli on via Cairoli offers style and comfort. 

The many lodgings near Principe Station range from the historic, five-star Grand Hotel Savoia Genova, to the family-run two-star Hotel Balbi. The nearby Hotel della Posta is similarly affordable. Even cheaper is the Bernhoef (via Balbi 15, +39 010 247 2166), a basic bargain-basement internet find.

In the same family, style and location as the Savoia is the Hotel Continental, while the three-star Vittoria is tucked away in its own little square.