Changes in the football landscape seldom happen in Italy. This is a land where football has been dominated by the northern giants of Juventus, Inter and Milan for decades.

The landscape of the Veneto is most certainly changing albeit only slightly year on year.

Think of Venice like a bath. Sometimes it’s full of water and its favorite places submerged then the weather changes the plug is pulled and all the water drains.

The city of Venice is a stunning oddity built around 120 islands, crisscrossed by 177 canals, and walked around via the use of 391 bridges. It is a watery maze of a city, full of tiny footpaths and tucked away squares, hidden museums and secluded, centuries-old churches.

A film set for Hollywood movie.

East of the cities of Turin and Milan the city of Venice is way more beautiful than either of the Italian industrial hubs but with a football team that is light years behind.

Football began being played in a field on the island of Sant’ Elena in December 1907, but the current Pier Luigi Penzo Stadium that we know today was not opened until 1913.   

The club lies at the eastern tip of the main island group and forms part of the sestiere of Castello. The original island was separated by an arm of the Venetian Lagoon from Venice itself and was centered on the Church of Sant’Elena and its monastery, originally built in the twelfth century.

The Stadio Pierluigi Penzo or the Municipal Sports Campo of Sant’Elena is one of the oldest stadiums in Italy but also one of its most basic.  If you want to fill in a few quiet moments before kick off then then Church is still accessible.

The old tribunes have gone and a small, compact feel dominates.  The Curva Sud, the Tribune Valeria Solesin and the Curva Ospiti are at best of a temporary feel but colorful.

Still, there are few stadiums in Italy with such a spectacular setting.

The walk from the train station takes you through winding streets via the central Piazza San Marco and lasts about 45 minutes.    As a walk to a football stadium, this is a special one not really matched anywhere else in Europe. 

Before you cross the small ornate bridges that lead to Sant Elena you can relax in the Giardini della Biennale which sits nearby or venture east via the splendor of San Marco Square.

Being that there are no roads a number of boats go to the Isola di Sant’Elena.    Some of these boats can be caught at Piazza San Marco, the location from where many fans choose to travel from on a match-day.

While the Pierluigi Penzo is not in a state of disrepair, plans have been made for the construction of a new stadium (the Nuovo Stadio del Venezia FC). 

That will probably require Serie A football being achieved and retained.

Its 2018 not two years after another bankruptcy, and a reborn Venezia are under a new American investment group. The owners have filed a feasibility project with the local Municipality for the new stadium. 

The aim is for it to be built in the area of the so-called “Quadrante di Tessera”, a developing area near Venice Marco Polo Airport. 

With temperatures warm and no more than 4,000 in attendance (including a very noisy 150 Livorno fans in the Curva Ospiti), it was Livorno who took the early ascendancy in this evening game.

Currently, they are a side with an interesting mix of experience and foreign additions. 

Under former striker Lucarelli savvy comes from the former Italian international Alessandro Diamanti as well as Francesco Valiani. 

Up front, the visitors also count on the youthful Brazilian Murilo for goals.

The rest of the opening half saw a succession of fouls as the referee brandished numerous yellow cards to the home side.

The home fans were infuriated as were the home supporters on the Curva Sud.

With darkness descending on Venice and light winds in the air the home side came out with a renewed vigor.  Neat approach play from Falzerano on 57 minutes saw Nicola Citro finish to draw the sides level.

And that was how this Serie B encounter ended – with a point each.

In a city like Venice with its canals, bridges and historic backdrop, a football match is generally not the first point of call for 99% of visitors.   A city island in the Adriatic, Venice is truly a unique place being almost entirely enclosed by water.   

Where Venezia play is a quiet space among the madness of Serie A and football is played in a district that is largely undisturbed by tourists.  But with the new American owners seemingly intent on building a new stadium for the club near the airport, the likelihood is that this neighborhood will become just another branch of island tourism should the club move.

If Venezia progress and make it to Serie A the Pierluigi Penzo Stadium may well become a restaurant chain area with hotels and apartments dominating rather than a football location.

The Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo is the second-oldest stadium in Italy and one of the most unique stadiums in the world.

Hosting football on water from the Venetian lagoon might seem a miracle given that San Marco Square is often submerged. But it looks like things will continue this way for a few more years given there is no sign, as yet, of the Nuovo Stadio del Venezia.

Italy Serie B

Stadio Pierluigi Penzo, Venice

Saturday, Sept 29th 2018

Venezia 1 vs Livorno 1

Venezia: Vicario, Coppolaro, Modolo, Domizzi, Bruscagin, Falzerano, Bentivoglio, Suciu, Garofalo, Citro, Di Mariano

Livorno: Mazzoni, Gonnelli, Di Gennaro, Bogdan, Iapichino, Luci, Maicon, Porcino, Diamanti, Valiani, Murilo