SIX NATIONS HOSPITALITY AT THE STADIO OLIMPICO, THE HOME OF ITALIAN RUGBY
The Stadio Olimpico in Rome continues to be the interim home of Italian rugby for the Six Nations, while longstanding venue the Stadio Flaminio gets a long-awaited refurbishment.
Situated two and a half miles north of the Vatican City, the 82,000-capacity Olimpico is one of Italy’s most revered sporting arenas.
The stadium took centre stage in the 1960 Rome Olympics as the opening and closing ceremonies and athletics events were staged there.
Currently it is home to the capital’s two major football teams – Roma and Lazio – who share the ground for their home league games in Serie A.
As it also acts as an athletics stadium, the running track around the pitch means fans are farther from the action than they were at the intimate Flaminio, but the ground’s capacity is significantly larger. The atmosphere in the stadium can still be fantastic – particularly if the home side are performing well.
And as the 80,000 spectators who watched Italy play New Zealand at the San Siro in 2009 showed, Italian rugby has an enthusiastic and very vocal following these days.
Italy plan to move back to the Flaminio when work has finished on upping its capacity to 42,000. Albeit spectator growth has put a question mark over whether rugby will indeed return.
After beating France and Ireland at the Stadio Olimpico in 2013 – the latter in front of 74,000 supporters – and finishing fourth in the RBS 6 Nations, they may not be excited to leave the venue.
The Stadio Olimpico boasts smart modern facilities. It is located around 4km north of the city within the Foro Italico sports complex, which is enclosed by the river Tiber on one side and a nature reserve on the other.
The stadium’s stands along the touchlines are the Monte Mario and Tribuna Tevere, and as expected are where the more expensive tickets are located due to their proximity to the pitch. Behind the posts are the Curva Nord and Curva Sud, where the bends of the running track mean that supporters are far from the pitch, although tickets are priced to reflect this. The Curva Sud is the larger of the two, whilst three corners of the ground are known as the Distinti.
There is plenty of excellent hospitality on offer. Alcohol is widely available both inside and outside of the stadium, with beer tents set up and plenty of bars within the ground itself.
The Stadio Olimpico was officially opened on May 17, 1953. Capacity amounted to 100,000 at that time, which constituted mainly of terraces.
But, in true Italian style, construction actually started in 1928, a project initiated by the regime of Mussolini but interrupted by World War II.
It was rebuilt for the 1990 FIFA World Cup and it hosted the tournament final.
For fans, probably worth more than a fleeting visit for the rugby.
Rome is known as the Eternal City, and is the home of the Roman Empire, the Vatican City and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site to boot.