*This article first appeared in 2015 and has been updated.

It’s 3pm on a Saturday afternoon in northern Italy and Serie A rolls into town. On this particular Saturday it was the Donkeys against Elephants but the main act the mastiff dogs (Hellas Verona) are nowhere in sight.

If you are one of the thousands who have read A Season with Verona you will be aware the book is a non-fictional account tracking the story of a season in Serie A. The author follows Hellas Verona where a succession of league matches and adventures around Italy are detailed.

Aside from on field matters Parks provides insightful commentary into the political status and history of Italy. He also explores modern perceptions of Verona as a city, the surrounding Veneto region, Italian politics and the relationship of Verona with other major Italian cities.

One other theme of the book albeit minor is that of the presence of Chievo Verona the ‘other’ team from Verona.

AC Chievo Verona

Hellas Verona had been crowned the champions of Italy in 1985.

Chievo Verona were previously known as ‘Paluani Chievo’ and the team gained promotion to Serie C2 in 1986. As a consequence the club moved to the inner city Stadio Bentegodi the main sporting venue in Verona the home of the 1985 scudetto winners.

Another promotion, this time to Serie C1, followed in 1989.

By the early 1990’s a young man called Luca Campedelli became the youngest chairman of an Italian professional football club when he took charge at Chievo. He named Alberto Malesani as the head coach and the team won Serie C1 gaining promotion to Serie B.

Hellas Verona by then were a club starting to falter. They were also conscious of the rise of its perceived lesser neighbors at Chievo.  The suggestion was that ‘Donkey’s would fly before Chievo played in Serie A’.

This term stuck around with the title of ‘flying donkeys’ being used as a derogatory term to describe Chievo.

By season 2000/2001 the donkeys really started to fly – it went from being a derogatory term to being a badge of honor.  Luigi Del Neri was signed as coach and he led Chievo by virtue of a third-place finish in Serie B rose to the top of Italian football.

Although Hellas had survived in Serie A by season 2000-2001 they were a club confirmed to really be on the slide.

Despite player names like Camoranesi, Mutu, Oddo and Alberto Gilardino by 2007 Hellas were in Serie C1 and almost at one stage they were close to Serie C2.  It was not until 2011, and a play-off victory over Salernitana, that Verona gained a place back in Serie B and a resurgence in fortunes was confirmed.

Whilst Verona have legions of fans characterized by the well-known Brigate Gialloblu, Chievo relied on the support and goodwill of locals looking for something a little different to the often complex contexts of following Hellas.

Steadily a small fan culture emerged at Chievo with small groups of fans congregating – students, young people and long term members. The fact that big names were venturing to the Bentegodi to play Chievo meant that all sorts of locals turned up on a matchday.

However, the club continued to rely heavily on Serie A television money and any drop through the leagues given the huge wage bill would be deadly.

Come match day a typical Verona home game sees numerous merchandise outlets and lines of concession stands selling food and football merchandise.  For Chievo it was almost certainly a few merchandise stalls and what merchandise did exist was dedicated to any visiting fans.

The Donkeys’ v Elephants

You need to start off early in a city like Verona given the surroundings.  It seems almost unfair that one city can have so much going for it in terms of scenery.  This is a city that is visually stunning like Venice and the pavements are clean. There are countless historical buildings and squares making it perfection.

The scenic route of the river makes the city the perfect location for an early morning walk as the sun rises.

Almost 960 km separated the eastern Sicilian port of Catania from Verona.  Catania at that time themselves were doing relatively well in Serie A.  

Outside the Bentegodi there was one shabby looking office structure selling match tickets to supporters of both clubs. Fans hand over ID cards and passports in exchange for match tickets to access the stadium. 

Inside the Bentegodi feels like an Italia ’90 throwback.  It looks like the only developments have been the installation of turnstiles to comply with new rules surrounding safety access at Italian football.   The passageways are old fashioned and even some Italia 90 signage remains in place.

Inside the stadium has a bowl like feel and the scoreboard looks like something more benefitting of 1985.

The moat that surrounds the seating areas is cluttered with litter and puddles.

Around 10 minutes in and the rain started crashing down in Verona. The running track which surrounds the pitch is soaked quickly.  Playing for Chievo is the American midfielder Michael Bradley and it is the balding American who gives Chievo the lead with a right foot shot into the corner.

Not soon afterwards there is an almighty mess up in the Catania defense and the penalty awarded sees captain Pellissier give Chievo a two goal lead.

This was Serie A but it was not to last much longer for both.

May 2024 – The Return of Chievo

Chievo Verona has come a long way since the ‘flying donkeys’ title was first mentioned.   In 2021, the club was excluded from professional football because of financial problems and disappeared.

In a strange quirk of fate Catania in 2021 were also declared insolvent. A promised takeover never materialized, and the club entered administration.

By 2022 they were excluded from Serie C but by the later months of that year a new Catania were back.

Thanks to the historic foundations of the club in a large Sicilian municipality a new club was formed. They entered Serie D and soon after they were back to the heights of Serie C.

If the Gli Elefanti (The Elephants) were back the same however was not the case with the donkeys of Chievo Verona.

Bankruptcy and FC Clivense

In July 2021, Chievo Verona was expelled from Serie B for the 2021–22 season. The main problem was legacy tax bills. They had been unable to prove the clubs financial viability to the league due to outstanding tax payments.

Sergio Pellissier – the player who scored in the aforementioned game against Catania – took it upon himself to reform the club and the Chievo brand.

New ownership groups and funding was saught so that a Chievo Verona phoenix club could enter Serie D under the Chievo club name.

But by August 2021 Chievo Verona no longer existed as a club and they had no division to play football in.

Gone, no more.

Pellissier refused to admit defeat and decided instead to found a new club himself, which was admitted to Terza Categoria at the very bottom of the Italian football league system. The club, originally named FC Chievo 2021, was then renamed to FC Clivense this due to a legal dispute with the former president Campedelli.

On 13 July 2022, FC Clivense registered for the 2022–23 season of Eccellenza, the 5th tier of Italian football, where they would eventually gain promotion in Serie D. 

Two years on and its Friday 10th May 2024.

Sergio Pellissier and the former Chievo goalkeeper Enzo Zanin went to court to win the rights to the Chievo Verona brand and legal naming convention. The cost to them of this purchase would be near on half a million Euros.

In the event the actual cost to the 800 Clivense members was 330,000 euros.

To attain the brand they beat former president Luca Campedelli and his legal team at the auction for the acquisition.

Forward two weeks on and it is Friday 28th May. Clivense announce via its channels that it will be renamed AC Chievo Verona. This new club would maintain the Clivense team colors but now once again would start using the Chievo Verona shield and the old club name.

The team would take the name of AC Chievo Verona but the club colors will remain the white and blue of Clivense.

Very quickly the logo and name of the former club have been progressively updated on the club website and on social media channels.

Victory outside the auction was met with celebration between Pellissier and the members who fought for so long for a route back.

Pellissier himself has said that the Chievo brand has ‘returned to its people’. Decisions as to the direction of the club will now be made ‘together’ said the President.

The outcome is that a new club and team will emerge as the club seek a route back to Serie A.

On closer inspection, the new club unites two souls: history, with the name AC Chievo Verona and the present legacy of FC Clivense namely via the white and blue shirt colors.

We are proud that ‘these souls become one: a new dream to be built, a story yet to be written’ said Pellissier.

Chievo Verona will now play their home matches at the 1,500-capacity Stadio Comunale, known for sponsorship reasons as Phoenix Arena and located in the municipality of San Martino Buon Albergo about 9km to the east of Verona.

They will play in Serie D the fourth tier of Italian football.