Italy Serie B

Stadio Pierluigi Penzo, Venice

Saturday, Sept 29th 2018

Venezia v Livorno

Football began being played in a field on the island of Sant’Elena during December 1907, but the current ground we know was not opened until 1913.   The Stadio Pierluigi Penzo or the Municipal Sports Campo of Sant’Elena as it was originally known is one of the oldest stadia in Italy but clearly still one of its most basic.  The old tribunes have gone and there is a small, compact artificial stand feel.  While the main concrete foundations stand still exists the Curva Sud, the Tribune Valeria Solesin and the Curva Ospiti are temporary if colourful stands.

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

The Stadio Pierluigi Penzo is located on Isola di Sant’Elena island; a small island which lies on the south-eastern tip of the main island group of Venice.   The walk from the train station takes you through the winding streets via the central Piazza San Marco and lasts about 50 minutes.    And 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 to Sant Elena island you can relax in the Giardini della Biennale which sits nearby or venture through the splendour of San Marco Square.

Given the main railway station of Venice is on the western side of Venice island, fans can catch one of the many boats that serve as the mode of transport in Venice.  Being that there are no roads a number of boats all 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).  However, progress has been slow and the realisation of the said new ground plans remain unclear especially given Venezia still languish in Serie B.

On 24 July 2018 not two years after another bankruptcy, a reborn Venezia FC under its now American investor Joe Tacopina officially filed a feasibility project with the local Municipality for the new stadium.  It is to be built in the area of the so-called “Quadrante di Tessera”, a developed area near Venice Marco Polo Airport.  The project includes an 18,000-seat stadium that can be expanded to 25,000; an adjoining 36,000-square-meter retail park as well as road and parking support structures.

At the moment the club aims to move to the new stadium, the ‘Nuovo Stadio Venezia‘ by August 2023.

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 the experience comes from former Italian international Alessandro Diamanti as well as Francesco Valiani.  Up front, the visitors also count on the youthful Brazilian Murilo for goals.

It was Diamanti who gave Livorno the lead on 22 minutes from the penalty spot following a very surprising decision by the referee.

The rest of the 1st half was then spoiled by a succession of fouls as the referee offered out numerous yellow cards to the home side only infuriating the home bench and home supporters on the Curva Sud.

With darkness descending on Venice and a light wind in the air the home side came out with a renewed vigour.  Neat approach play from Marcello 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 and famous bridges, a football match is not the first point of call for 99% of the visitors.   A city island in the Adriatic, Venice is truly a unique place being almost entirely enclosed by water.   While there are no roads there is a huge amount of water traffic congestion made up of a mix of modern and traditional ships as well as small boats.

Local Venetian inhabitants meanwhile are increasingly complaining of depopulation and of being driven out of the city by the masses of tourists who visit Venice each year.  Foreign investors have eyes on re-development of what is a tourist magnet meaning many locals who once saw Venice as home have been forced out of the historic centre to the Italian mainland and nearby Mestre to live.

The island and surrounding area where Venezia play is a quiet one and a district 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 neighbourhood will become just another branch of island tourism.

Namely, if Venezia progress on the field and make it to Serie A the Pierluigi Penzo Stadium may well become an overdeveloped harbour restaurant chain area. The remaining land that is left meanwhile will be developed into apartments that few locals can afford to buy.

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

FT: 1-1

Referee: Fabio Piscopo, Italy

You can see the full album from Venezia here