San Siro Stadium in Milan
How Italy’s Favorite Sports Compare to the Rest of the World

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Italy is world-renowned for its healthy diet and lifestyle, which has made it one of the healthiest countries on the planet. While the Mediterranean diet is partly responsible, another reason could be the nation’s love affair with sports, with many locals embracing an active lifestyle.

To learn more about the Italian way of life and the nation’s favorite pastimes, find out how Italy’s favorite sports compare to the rest of the world.

Football (Soccer)
There are few sports Italians love more than soccer. The nation has not only won a whopping four World Cups, but it has also secured a European Championship, so it’s hardly surprising it is a sport that has captured locals’ hearts.

Both passionate and vocal about the beautiful game, it seems only natural that the nation would develop an intense rivalry with equally-passionate and vocal England. While England might have secured one World Cup in its sporting history (which the country holds on to for dear life), they have never managed to secure the same level of trophies as Italy. In fact, after failing to enter the World Cup in the 1930s, and with Italy winning the 1934 and 1938 tournaments, England were more than a bit frustrated; yet, they claimed that they were the best team in the world anyway, which led to the historic rivalry soccer fans know today. However, while soccer is a huge part of Italian and English life, it is a sport that fails to resonate with other countries across the world. For example, if you’re going to talk to Australians about football, you’d be smart to talk about the upcoming AFL Grand Final over the World Cup or Premier League, as Aussie Rules Football reigns supreme Down Under. You also shouldn’t strike up a conversation about soccer in Lithuania, as the nation has never qualified for the major sporting event.

Basketball
When Italians aren’t busy watching soccer and producing some of the finest players in the sport, you will probably catch them watching a game of basketball. While the likes of England would turn their nose up to b-ball, Italy is one of the biggest basketball nations within Europe. In fact, the only countries that can match its fandom include Spain, France, Greece, Lithuania, Russia and Turkey.

Italy also has both a rich and extensive history in basketball, as the national team won gold at EuroBasket 1983 and again in 1999. Plus, they managed to secure silver medals in the Olympics in 1980 and 2004.

While the passion for basketball in Italy might not compare to the likes of the fandom in the United States (which is, of course, home to the NBA), you can guarantee many Italians would happily talk about the sport for many an hour, if given the opportunity.

Volleyball
It might surprise you to learn that volleyball is one of the most popular sports in all of Italy, and both males and females regularly participate. In fact, those passionate about the popular team sport should find out more about the Italian Volleyball League, which is easily one of the most challenging leagues on the planet.

Sharing the Italian’s passion for volleyball is Brazil, as the nation has won 13 Olympic medals and 15 World Championship medals. In fact, Brazil secured medals for three of four disciplines at the 2016 Rio Olympics: the indoor gold for men, the beach gold for men and the beach silver for women.

Other nations that also appreciate the indoor and outdoor sport include the United States, China, Russia and Germany.

Cycling
No country has won the World Cycling Championship more times than Italy. If you class yourself as a cycling enthusiast, you should time your trip to Italy for May, which is when it plays host to Giro D’Italia—an internationally-respected, long-distance cycling race.

The event lasts for approximately three weeks and is one of three major Grand Tours (with the other two being the Tour de France and Vuelta a España). The country has also produced some of the finest cycling talent in the sport’s history, such as Michele Bartoli, Vincenzo Nibali and Gianni Bugno, to name only a few. The only nation that might love cycling more than Italy is the Netherlands, as the activity is not just a “sport” to locals, but a way of life. In fact, it has been reported that 25% of all journeys to work are made by bike, with the average person cycling for 2.5km per day.

Yet, Great Britain is one nation that refuses to embrace both the sport and the activity. While it does produce great professional and amateur cycling teams, many people across the country would rather take public transport over stepping onto a bike, which could be largely due to the unpredictable weather and a lack of cycling lanes.


A view of the Italian Alps


Skiing
As Italy offers multiple ski resorts to choose from, it would be surprising if skiing weren’t a popular sporting activity for locals. In fact, some of the prettiest foothills can be found in northern Italy, as it shares the Alps with 9 other countries, including Austria, France, Switzerland, and Germany.

Two million Italians reportedly embrace skiing every year, with many of them making their way to resorts in the north and centre of the nation. Due to their experience on the slopes, Italian skiers tend to enjoy excellent results in the Winter Olympic Games and World Championships.

Matching Italy’s dedication to skiing is, of course, France, which offers some of the best snow on the planet and the most beautiful mountain ranges. The United States also shares Italy’s passion for skiing, as the diverse country offers exceptional skiing resorts for both rookies and professionals, which attract millions of locals and tourists every year. So, if you are planning on visiting a region of Italy in the not-so distant future and are looking for a way to connect with locals, you can guarantee they will be more than happy to talk about one of the exciting sports mentioned above.

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Area: 301,225 km²
Population: 60,157,214
Capital: Rome
Currency: Euro (€)
Calling code: +39
Internet TLD: .it

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