The field of dreams – and the stands around it
All roads lead to Rome – or so it seems when you stride up the grandiose walkway to the impressive Stadio Olimpico. Stage for the Olympic Games of 1960, the World Cup final of 1990, Euro 2020 Group A games and a quarter-final, and many a major European final, the Olimpico is still the shared home of Lazio and Roma.
A 70,000-capacity bowl in Rome’s green northern reaches, Italy’s de facto national stadium has been the subject of various plans to dump it – Roma first arranged to be moving out in 2016. The green light wasn’t given to the Stadio della Roma until December 2017, before the whole project was shelved in 2021. The latest location for Roma’s relocation is Pietralata.
Lazio, meanwhile, first looked at siting the Stadio delle Aquile by the Tiber north of Rome, and are now looking at rebuilding the nearby Stadio Flaminio.
Until either of these projects see the light of day, Lazio fans will fill the Curva Nord with noise and colour, Roma fans the Curva Sud – and never the twain will meet.
Italy first gained its national stadium in 1928, the aforementioned Flaminio. Here Mussolini opened the Stadio Nazionale PNF, the acronym standing for his Fascist Party. A leading venue for Italian national games, it staged the World Cup final of 1934, Italy’s first major triumph. Meanwhile, a mile away, beneath Monte Mario on the other side of the Tiber, il Duce was also planning a grand sports complex: il Foro Mussolini.
After the war, before Flaminio was rebuilt to co-host the football tournament of the 1960 Olympics, a new national stadium was built where the Foro would have been. Although Mussolini’s vast project never came to pass, the grand Fascist entrance remains, with its walkway and hallmark obelisk. An open bowl inaugurated in 1953, a 54,000-seater arena was complemented by smaller sports facilities nearby: the Foro Italico.
Host of the main ceremonies and athletics competitions of the 1960 Games, the Olimpico had to be completely modernised for the 1990 World Cup. The two ends behind the goal were expanded and brought closer to the pitch, and the Tevere and Monte Mario stands were both expanded. A new roof was installed. A basement car park, media facilities and hall of honour were also added.
The result is pretty much as you see today – although occasional rumours of a vast new leisure centre being built here do the rounds. Apart from the running track, the main problem with the Olimpico is that it’s state-owned, so its long-term tenants have little say in any alterations. Every Italian club looks to Juventus with envy, the record title-winners having had the gumption and the wherewithal to build their own stadium and not be reliant on the caprices of municipalities.
Despite the sheer scale of the place – and a running track – on its night the Olimpico can be one of the loudest and most colourful football arenas in the world, as anyone who has experienced a Rome derby would testify. The Olimpico also came to life for Italy’s home games at Euro 2020 in June 2021. Although crowd numbers were limited to 12,000, the passion generated here carried Italy onto the final triumph.
Going to the stadium – tips and timings
There are two main routes by public transport. Exiting Ottaviano station on metro line A, veer away from the Vatican in the distance and into via Barletta, for the 32 bus stop in the middle of the street. The infrequent service heads north, away from the Vatican, past the Flaminio Stadium, and after around 15mins passes the Olimpico at the stop LGT M.llo Diaz (De Bossis).
An easier journey might be to take regular, easy tram 2 from Ple Flaminio/P de Popolo (metro line A) to the terminus at Mancini. You then just have to cross the bridge with the Olimpico ahead of you.
Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much
The VivaTicket agency distributes tickets for Roma, Lazio and national games at the Olimpico, either online or from scores of outlets around the city. Central ones include Orbis Servizi (Mon-Fri 10am-4pm) at piazza della Repubblica 53, Tabaccheria Azzini (Mon-Fri 8am-7.30pm, Sat 8am-2.30pm) at via Palestro 60 near Termini and Napnet Wash (daily 9am-9pm) at via Napoli 26.
In all cases, ID is required for purchase.
A seat in the Curva Nord (Lazio) or Sud (Roma) is generally around €20, rising to around €30-€40 in the distinti in the corners, €50-€60 in the Tribuna Tevere, and €80 and over in the Tribuna Monte Mario.
Neutrals are best placed in the Tribuna Tevere alongside the pitch – opposite the most expensive seats in the Tribuna Monte Mario. Away fans are generally allocated places in the corner distinti sections opposite each home end.
Where to Drink
Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors
On the city side of the river, by the tram 2 terminus on piazza Mancini, Pizzeria ‘Il Derby’ allows you to gawp at various framed shirts and autographed photos of Totti while your slice is being prepared. On the same square, the Bar Mannocchi is another hang-out, and around the corner on via Sacconi, the Trentino Pizzeria is also used on match days.
A string of busy outlets hugs the river on the stadium side of Duca D’Aosta Bridge. These include friendly La Pizza del Buongustaio, the cabin-sized River Café, and the more bar-like Big Stefano’s, with table football. The liveliest fans frequent the River Café, drinking bottled Ceres (don’t touch the draught) and gawping at the earlier Serie A game on the TV in a side area.
For a quieter pre-match drink, head over the main road for nearby via Farnesina, where the Antica Trattoria Pallotta has been serving customers for 200 years and whose lovely courtyard lends itself to a civilised traditional meal. Younger matchgoers prefer the modern-day Gli Specialisti, a corner eatery with a decent reputation.
At Arena bar kiosks around the ground, you’ll pay €4 for a small Peroni and €4 for various panini.