When Rome Becomes a Ghost Town

7 Nov

It happens sometimes. I’d say the top three times it happens are: 1) August; 2) When there’s a Thursday holiday meaning long weekend and people go out of town; and the topic of today’s post, 3) The Hallowed and Revered Event Known as The Derby.

Not Derby like Kentucky Derby. Repeat after me: EEL DARE – BEE.

Yes, the good ol’ dare-bee. If you live in Rome and aren’t aware of the dare-bee, you should come out from under that rock once in a while.

You may know that Rome has two rival soccer teams, Roma and Lazio. Twice a season they play each other, and this, my friends, is the Derby.

It happened just last week and, as always, turned Rome into a bit of a frenzy of traffic and mayhem shortly before the start of the game—everyone either rushing to the stadium or to a friend’s house or to a pizzeria or to a pub, all to watch the match. Then, shortly before the game starts, an eerie silence descends upon the city.

If you were to sit in a silent house nearly anywhere in the city, you could most likely still be able to tell the score. All you’d have to do is wait to hear the screams. Every time a goal is scored, you can hear the city screaming. I’m not kidding. There’s such a silence in the city that if you sit in your house, you’ll generally hear other people in your building or in other buildings on your street start yelling and screaming when someone scores. The same might hold true for a missed goal, a foul, or something along those lines.

Last week’s Derby didn’t go too well for Lazio—they’re having a tough season this year. I know this because my Laziale fan husband subjects me to soccer talk radio just about every time we ride in the car together. You did know that there are radio stations here in Rome that devote their entire week’s programming to discussing one soccer team, did you not? Yes, it’s quite the entertainment, let me tell you. Guido De Angelis, one of Lazio’s most devoted radio talk show hosts, has thus become a household name for me. His show comes on right after Emanuele Artibani’s, the one I had the pleasure of being a guest on in March, so you can only imagine how excited Ale was to know that not only was I in the studio before GUIDO’S show, but that I had actually SEEN Guido in the studio.

Thankfully, the Rome fans didn’t flaunt last week’s victory too much and I managed to get some sleep after the match-up.

When I used to teach English as a Second Language, I always had to be super informed about when there was going to be a derby. It was essential to know who had won the night before, so that the next day when you went into class, you could manage the bickering between your Romanisti and Laziali fans, as well as understand why some students were so cranky and others so happy. Talk about the derby lasts at least the entire day after the game.

I spotted this newspaper in a bar the day after last week’s derby:

Better luck next time, Lazio.

Do you have a story of anything similar that happens where you live? Have you ever been to a soccer match in Rome (or Italy in general), or to the ultimate, a derby?


17 Responses to “When Rome Becomes a Ghost Town”

  1. joanna November 7, 2007 at 12:35 pm #

    the same thing happens in Spain when there’s a derby in Barcelona, Madrid or Sevilla but especially when Real Madrid plays Barcelona. if the Barca – Real Madrid game isn’t televised i only have to open my window to hear the score and then the fans of the winning team jump in their cars and race around the town blowing their horns. when Real Madrid won the league title last June it was “party time” all night with several people even sloshing around in the fountain.

  2. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy November 7, 2007 at 12:57 pm #

    hehehe…I will refrain from making any Derby comments. Sante was pleased.

    The city-wide silences during the World Cup were amazing…the best part was knowing who had satellite and who was watching it on normal TV – we (normal TV) actually saw the goals about 2-3 seconds before them and their cheers would echo after ours. 🙂

  3. Robert November 7, 2007 at 1:09 pm #

    In Dublin about the only time this happens is during the GAA playoffs and final played at Croke Park.

    The most memorable one for me was when South Africa hosted the rugby world cup and the day the final was played and we won. My hometown was a ghost town for the duration of the game (as I gather were towns across the country) but erupted into life when we won. People poured out on to the streets, cars and flatbed trucks with people dancing on the back of them were to be seen driving up and down the mainstreet, etc. Even cars passing on the highway were hooting at people up on the flyovers waving banners. Was a very memorable day.

  4. mentalmosaic November 7, 2007 at 4:45 pm #

    Ah, calcio… Here in Naples, the streets go silent during an “important” game. Until someone scores, of course! Then it’s screams and sometimes even firecrackers, depending.

  5. Emma November 7, 2007 at 5:58 pm #

    Here in Milan it works in pretty much the same way – you’re either a Milanista or an Interista. Never both! And god help you if you mistakenly use the English name for Inter – “Inter Milan”… This is generally met with shock and horror, as to a local, the idea of putting the words “Inter” and “Milan” together in the same sentence is simply unthinkable!!! Fortunately for me, football is largely ignored in our household. I’m a MOTO GP widow instead…

  6. nyc/caribbean ragazza November 7, 2007 at 6:13 pm #

    Soccer? Cities shutting down for that kids game? I live in America. I do not understand what it is you are talking about. 🙂

  7. cheeky November 7, 2007 at 7:23 pm #

    I can’t think of anything where I’m from that has that magnitutde of intensity from the fans.
    I’m a big fan of the footy(soccer).
    I don’t follow any team but I love the sport.
    I did witness the “hooligan” mentality though when I lived in the the UK.

  8. amanda November 7, 2007 at 7:32 pm #

    Oh this is good info me to know. I am planning on studying abroad next fall so any tips about Roman life would be appreciated.

  9. Karen November 7, 2007 at 9:40 pm #

    Istanbul, Turkey has 3 teams and they battle each other pretty often = Besiktas, Galatasaray and Fenerbace – The fans scream and fight at the stadium and their living rooms – serious sport in that city!!!

  10. Kelli November 7, 2007 at 9:56 pm #

    Oh my gosh. Ale must be crying huge tears! Especially with Lazio losing so close to his birthday. Darn it!

  11. Elle November 7, 2007 at 9:57 pm #

    What an interesting read, for many reasons! Firsty i had no idea about the game, i must have been under a rock that night as i heard nothing and usually do! Secondly, i start a new teaching job next week, so i will be sure to stay on top of games and scores in the future, thanks for the tip! And thirdly as i was reading, several of my neighbour shouted at the same time. Turns out there is a roma match going on right now!

  12. Isadora November 8, 2007 at 7:47 am #

    Most places I like deserted, but not Rome. The crowds of Italians are what gives the place its lived in sensuality.

  13. Jeff November 8, 2007 at 10:37 am #

    Forza Juve!!!! I went to a couple of games in Lecce back when (sniff, sniff) they were in Serie A!
    I was surprised when I went to a Brindisi basketball match. They don’t know that they don’t need to yell so loud because we’re indoors for basketball. I couldn’t believe how loud they were for THE ENTIRE GAME. Just like a calcio.

  14. Anna L'americana November 8, 2007 at 7:02 pm #

    I was in Rome when Italy won the World Cup back in the early 80’s…What a nottata that was! The entire city was jammed into Piazza Del Popolo celebrating after the game….Absolutely awe-inspiring.

    I was also in Rome one year (I lived there for 20 years) Rome won the Derby – same decade, I think…It took me 4 1/2 hours to get from behind Via Venti Settembre to where I lived at the time in Trasevere (right behind your rental units – on Vicolo Del Bologna!!!) and I was driving (note: I learned to drive there so I was quite expert at things like incorporating sidewalks in your route when necessary). People had painted their cars yellow and red, it was unbelievable. Possibly a bigger “casciara” than after the World Cup…
    I LOVE YOUR BLOG – stumbled on it I-don’t-know-how, and it is VERY nostalgic for me…It is almost like re-reading my own diary from back then. Of course Rome has changed a bit, but reading your impressions is quite like a warm hug from home.
    I was just there in June for 2 weeks, stayed on Via della Scala with Next time I’ll certainly come to you!
    Note to Jeff: Was always a Juventus fan too. Cannot believe they aren’t in the A series anymore!!!! Its Bizarro world!!!!!

  15. bombaygirl November 11, 2007 at 8:47 pm #

    Neat…I read about this in the memoir, Eat Pray, Love. I like your blog. Got here from CityMama

  16. Rachele January 13, 2008 at 12:34 am #

    yeeeeay per il derby!!!!
    I have been to 2 derby matches….its awesome!!! the streets are silenced but the roar of Romanisti vs. Laziali is alive and kickin’ at stadio olimpico. Its one of my fave things to do in Roma,support giallorossa at the stadium in curva sud. When ASRoma is “home” team it is amazing when the entire stadium sings l’inno.(roma roma rome cuore de sta città…etc.)This is something i enjoy so much.But then traffic is ugly after. Thank the lord for me living on via cassia and not having but a 10 minute drive back home.FORZA ROMA!!!!

  17. Rachele January 13, 2008 at 12:35 am #


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