Italy has a grand history in sport, with some top class domestic competition, high performing international teams and some great destinations for sports tourists. Think of Italy and you think of the rich history of Italian football, the famed Ferrari motorsport team or the Alps mountains with its abundance of skiing.
The country has hosted the world’s biggest events including the FIFA World Cup twice in 1934 and 1990, the Olympics in 1960 and the Winter Olympics in 1956 and 2006. Famed stadiums include the Stadio Olimpico in Rome and San Siro in Milan.
Capital – Rome
Currency – Euro (€)
Official Languages – Italian
Population – 60 million
Time – GMT+1
Sport in Italy
Football in Italy
Football is the most popular sport in Italy, with the national team being one of the most successful in world football – the Azzurri have won the FIFA World Cup four times (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006) and finished runners-up twice (1970 and 1994), as well as winning the UEFA European Championship twice (1968 and 2020) and runners-up twice (2000 and 2012).
Italy also has some of the world’s famous football stadiums – most notably the San Siro in Milan and the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The county has hosted the FIFA World Cup twice (in 1934 and 1990) and the UEFA European Championship twice (in 1968 and 1980).
The country’s top domestic football league is Serie A and is considered one of the best in the world. Serie A clubs have seen great success in European football, winning the UEFA Champions League on twelve occasions – with the most famous clubs being Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. Other notable clubs in the country include Roma, Fiorentina, Lazio and Napoli. The Italian football league system consists of three professional leagues (Serie A, Serie B and Serie C), with a further six amateur leagues. The national cup competition is the Coppa Italia.
Rugby Union in Italy
Rugby Union is fairly popular in Italy, most notably in the North of the country. The national team is considered a Tier One nation by World Rugby and since 2000 have competed in the Six Nations Championship alongside England, France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They have competed in every Rugby World Cup since 1987 but have yet to progress beyond the Pool Stage.
There are two teams from Italy that compete in the United Rugby Championship, a club competition with teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa and Wales. Benetton Rugby from Treviso joined the competition in 2010 and Zebre Parma joined in 2012. Neither side has yet to win the competition but Benetton did win the Pro14 Rainbow Cup in 2021, an end-of-season transitional competition whilst the league moved from the Pro14 format to URC. One of the teams is guaranteed a place in the European Rugby Champions Cup whilst the other plays in the European Rugby Challenge Cup.
The main domestic competition is the Top10, with a further three leagues below this level – Serie A, Serie B and Serie C.
Volleyball in Italy
Volleyball is a very popular sport in Italy – the domestic SuperLega is widely considered one of the best volleyball leagues in the world and Italian teams have won the most number of CEV Champions League titles. The most notable teams are Modena Volley, Volley Treviso and Volley Lube.
Both the men’s and women’s national teams have experienced great success on the international scene – winning numerous World Championships and European Championships, as well as achieving several silver medals at the Olympic Games.
Basketball in Italy
Italy also has a rich history in Basketball – the LBA (Lega Basket Serie A) is considered one of the top national leagues in Europe and its clubs have won the most EuroLeague championships. The most famous clubs include Olimpia Milano, Virtus Bologna, Pallacanestro Varese and Pallacanestro Cantù.
In international competition, the men’s national team has also experienced great success – winning the EuroBasket twice (1983 and 1999) and finishing runners-up four times, as well as two Silver medals at the Olympic Games (1980 and 2004).
Golf in Italy
The Italian Open is the most prestigious golf tournament in Italy and has featured on every season of the European Tour and has been hosted at a number of different venues across the country. There are a number of golf courses across the country, with the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club due to host the 2023 Ryder Cup.
Motorsport in Italy
Italy has a rich history in motorsport, with Ferrari the most well known and most successful team in Formula One Grand Prix racing whilst many Italian teams and riders compete in MotoGP Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
The Italian Grand Prix is one of the oldest national Grand Prixs, having been held since 1921. It is one of just two Grand Prix’s that have been a round in every Formula One World Championship since it was introduced in 1950 and with exception of 1980, has always been held at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in Monza. The 1980 race was held at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, which in itself hosted the San Marino Grand Prix from 1981 to 2006 – named after the nearby microstate.
The Italian motorcycle Grand Prix was one of the original rounds of the Grand Prix motorcycle racing calendar and has been held at the Mugello Circuit near Florence since 1994.
Tennis in Italy
Tennis is a very popular sport in Italy, with Italian tennis players winning several Grand Slam tournaments the country having won both the Davis Cup and Fed Cup in the past. The most significant event held in Italy is the Italian Open at the Foro Italico in Rome, first played in 1930 and is considered one of the most important clay court tournaments in the world.
Cycling in Italy
Italy has a great history in road cycling, winning more UCI Road World Championships than any other country with the exception of Belgium. Notable riders include Grand Tour winners Vincenzo Nibali, Gino Bartali, Mario Cipollini and Felice Gimondi among others.
The prestigious Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) is one of professional cycling’s three Grand Tours (along with the Tour de France and Vuelta a España), first raced in 1909 and held across 3 weeks each year with the General Classification winner given the pink jersey (maglia rosa).
Other famed races in Italy include two of the five ‘Monuments’, the oldest and most prestigious one-day races on the cycling calendar. Milan–San Remo, held in March is called “The Spring classic” and is the longest professional one-day race in modern cycling with a distance of 298 km (185.2 miles). Giro di Lombardia is traditionally the last of the ‘Monuments’ of the season, held in the Autumn in the Lombardy region and favoured by climbers due to its demanding course.
Winter Sports in Italy
Winter Sports are popular in Italy, with the well known Alps mountain range lying in the North of the country. Sports such as Alpine Skiing, Cross-country skiing, Bobsleigh and Luge are very popular with Italy experiencing great success at the Winter Olympics, which the country has hosted twice – in 1956 at Cortina d’Ampezzo and 2006 in Turn, with a third Games due to be held in 2026 in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.
The most well known ski resort in the country is Cortina d’Ampezzo, others include Val Gardena, Sestriere, Madonna di Campiglio, Alta Badia and Courmayeur.
Traditional Sports in Italy
Traditional sports are still very much at the heart of Italian culture, with events attracting many sports tourists. A Palio is the name given to an annual athletic contest, usually between neighbourhoods within a town or the hamlets of a commune. The most famous of these is the Palio di Siena, a horse race held twice a year in Siena since 1633 in which ten horses and riders representing the city wards circle the Piazza del Campo for three laps.
Calcio Fiorentino is an early form of football and rugby that is still played in Florence each June, with three matches held at the Piazza Santa Croce between the four territories of the city.
Travelling to Italy & Visa
Air – Italy has a number of international airports, including in Rome, Milan, Venice, Catania, Naples, Bologna and Pisa among others which between them serve many destinations across Europe and the World.
Thinking of flying? Search & book your flights through Skyscanner here.
Boat – There are international ferry routes to Italy from a host of countries including Albania, Croatia, Greece, Malta, Montenegro, Morocco, Slovenia, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey.
Train – Travelling across borders by train is a great way to travel, there are international train services to Italy from Austria, France, Germany and Switzerland.
Thinking of catching a train in Italy? Search and book your journey through the Trainline here.
Entry Requirements & Visas
Italy is a member of the European Union and part of the Schengen area, therefore citizens of many countries can spend up to 90 days in the country without a visa.
If you are a UK citizen, you can view the UK’s government latest advice on entry requirements to Italy by clicking here. For other passport holders, consult your own government’s travel advice for entry to Italy.
Travelling around Italy
Car Hire – Hiring a car is a relatively inexpensive way of travelling across Portugal, meaning you can dictate your own itinerary and pace. There are many companies offering car hire and can be found across most major towns, with one-way hire often available.
Train – The Italian rail system is an efficient and relatively cheap way of travelling across the country, with high speed services available between major cities.
Thinking of catching a train in Italy? Search and book your journey through the Trainline here.
Hotels in Italy
Italy City Guides
Guides to some of Italy major cities/districts and most popular stops for watching Sport in the country are available below:
Last Updated on January 24, 2023 by Sports Tourist