A Viking Abroad: Juventus Stadium

Valerio Pennicino

In which we recount, at length, just how difficult it can be to attend a Serie A match.

Whoever coined the phrase "Focus on the journey, not the destination" deserves a swift kick in the ass.   I say this not because I'm some kind of results seeker, constantly trying to skip over the necessary details in order to get to the fruit of any struggle, but because I've experienced what it's like to try to attend a Juventus FC match in Turin as an American.  Let me explain:

A few months after getting engaged last year, my [then] fiancee suggested we go to Italy for our honeymoon.  Traveling to the boot shaped country has always been something that has  interested me so I immediately agreed.   She then went on to suggest we try to see Juventus play while we're there.  Again, I immediately agreed and secretly thought to myself "glad I locked this down."   Since our wedding was in September, our honeymoon would fall perfectly within the Serie A season. So, after pouring over the schedule, we realized our best opportunity to see the Old Lady play would be on September 22nd against Hellas Verona.   Piece of cake, yeah?  Nope!  The following is an account of what we went through in as close to real time as I can make it:

September 2nd: After scouring the web in the hope of finding tickets I resort to asking reddit for help.   As expected, the snarky comments come fast a furious.   Evidently it's a lot of fun to insult people who ask sincere questions on the internet.  Narrowing my search to /r/juve, I finally get some help.   It seems tickets to Serie A matches don't go on sale until about one week prior to the match day.   I'm told this is to prevent something or other.   No matter, we'll just buy our tickets a week before the game!

September 14th: I get married.  Congratulatory beers can be sent to my [now] wife and I in Red Bull Arena, section 103, row 7.   Thanks in advance!

September 16th: Less then a week away from match day, I turn on my computer confident that Juventus tickets will soon be mine.   To my dismay, they're already sold out.   In a panic, I search Stub Hub and other, American, online ticket brokers to see if anyone has resulted to scalping.  Clearly this wasn't going to be easy.

September 18th: Still feeling confident that we'll figure out a way to catch the match, we board our plan and take off for Italy.

September 19th: We land at the Istanbul International Airport and enjoy a seven hour layover.   Zero fun is had by all. Finally we board the plane for the second leg of our trip to Italy.  We land in Rome, go to our hotel and proceed to sleep for the next 12 hours.

September 20th: I speak to the hotel concierge about getting us tickets to the match.   He explains to me that they are not able to purchase tickets for guests due to stadium security or something.....then he mumbles something in Italian that I can't quite understand but I'm pretty sure it has to do with AS Roma and me being a putz.   Dejected but not deterred, we head to Roma Termini and board our train towards Turin.   I'm shocked at how clean, fast and efficient travel by train is in Italy.   Assigned seats and everything!  Amtrak could learn a thing or two!

Upon arrival in Turin, we immediately drop our luggage off at our apartment and then hit the streets in search of tickets....and wine.  Yes, we mustn't forget the wine.   On the ticket front, we have zero luck.  We are, however, able to find plenty of wine, and that somehow makes the lack of tickets alright.  They have this thing called "aperitivo" in Turin which basically just means "let's eat all sorts of tiny sausages and cubes of cheese while we drink lots of Martini Blanco!"   The rest of the evening goes by in a blur of candle lit protests, pesky rose vendors and some of the best damn food I've ever eaten.

September 21st: Our first full day in Turin starts with a headache.   Two headaches, actually, but who's keeping track?   We stumble out onto the streets in search of  cappuccinos which are easy to find.  Every third door we pass seems to be a cafe.   With our coffee fix behind us, we explore Turin in a more sober state of mind.  It really is a beautiful city.  Clean and grand, it's both a shame and a blessing that it doesn't fall victim to more tourism than it does.  We walk slowly from one piazza to another, taking everything in and genuinely feeling glad that we decided to make the once royal capitol the first real stop of our trip.   Coincidentally enough, within the first hour of exploration, we stumble into an official Juventus store.   I try to ask (in Italian) a particularly friendly employee if we are able to buy tickets there. In completely fluent English, he regretfully replies that they don't sell tickets and even if they did, the game was unfortunately sold out.   He does, however, have a list of places that may still have some tickets available, which he prints out and lets us keep.   Before leaving I thank him to the point of embarrassment and then buy an Andrea Pirlo jersey.  When in Turin, right?

We see see more of the great city while walking around, checking off locations from the list of possible ticket vendors.  No luck at any of them but the day still feels like a success.   We decide to take a break from the hunt and duck into the Egyptian Museum of Turin.   Well worth the visit if lots of preserved, mummified corpses and massively impressive rock carvings are your thing.

With the day winding down, we eat some dinner, head back home and look online for more possible options for tickets.  After about an hour of research, I find a website called viagogo which is selling tickets for about double face value.  What a deal!  I immediately purchase two.  About ten minutes later, I receive an email saying that we should expect our tickets within one full business day.  Considering that it was a Saturday night and the game was the following day, this doesn't exactly make me brim with confidence.   I explain to my wife that I'm sure it's just a standard email that they send after any order and that we'll most likely have our tickets by the time we wake up.

September 22nd: We don't have our tickets yet.  Shit.   For the first time, I start to actually believe that we won't be able to attend the match.   I refuse to accept defeat and convince my wife that everything will be fine.  We just need to grab a coffee and pastry.   We head out of the apartment, take a 20 minute walk around the neighborhood, drink our coffee and then return to the apartment to check our email.  The tickets have been delivered!  We shout and laugh and dance around the room in celebration.   Now we just have to print them.   Right.   Okay, no problem.  We just need to google an internet point or print shop.  I mean, they're all over New York, why wouldn't they be all over Turin?  Oh, it's Sunday you say?   Everything in the city is now closed you say?   I don't believe you.  It's 11:00am now and the game isn't until 3pm.  We have plenty of time to find something!

I find a tobacco shop online that claims to have a computer and printer up for grabs.  It's about a twenty minute walk from our apartment and close to the train that we'd need to take to get to Juventus Stadium.   We head out in a dead sprint.  It's closed.   Maybe if we ask the friendly tourist information folks, they can tell us where to go.   They aren't sure but suggest we try the hotel across the street.   We ask the concierge of the hotel if they have a printer we can use.  They don't but he kindly suggests going across the street to the tourist information booth.  This is working like gangbusters.

We run our way through the narrow streets of Turin and emerge into another huge piazza.   We see what we assume is a cell phone store and and duck inside.  The women at the counter tries her best to explain that they would be happy to print our tickets for us but Sunday is the only day of the week that they don't have internet.  I start to feel like I should probably buy a lottery ticket.   She suggest we try a cafe across the street.

Inside the cafe an incredibly handsome waiter eyes us suspiciously for a moment and then asks us if we'd like a cocktail.  I think to myself that a whiskey would probably be great right about now but decide against it.   My wife calmly explains the situation while I panic in the corner.  After a few minutes of conversation, the waiter offers us his email address and suggest we email him the tickets so that he can print them in the back room.   The email is sent before he can finish his sentence.   About 15 seconds after he walks to the back, we receive another email....a Mailer Demon.   For some reason his email isn't working.  He comes back out, shakes his head sadly and suggests we just go to the stadium.  He thinks they can print them there.

Taking his advice, we jump on the metro.  It's 1pm which gives us a good two hours before kick off.   Plenty of time!   The trip from center city to Juventus Stadium takes about the same amount of time as the trip from Brooklyn to Red Bull Arena.  It's an easy and stress free ride.   Other passengers seem to be confused by the dopey American in the Pirlo Jersey.

We arrive at Juventus Stadium.  It's a impressive building to say the least.   There are thousands of people, about half of which are trying to sell us cheaply made scarves.   We ignore the pushy salesmen and multitude of food vendors and head straight for the first ticket office we see.   As luck would have it, said office is located directly next to the visitors entrance which is densely surrounded by a horde of loud and angry Italian men wearing Hellas Verona colors.   We decide to find a different box office.

After about 10 minutes of searching, we locate another office and get in line.  A few minutes later we're told that we need to go to the box office located by the gate of our ticket...directly on the other side of the stadium.  It takes us 20 minutes to find the correct BO and we get in line only to be told that they are unable to print our tickets.  I beg for them to just scan the email directly from the screen of my phone but they refuse.   I hang my head in defeat.  Two days, countless embarrassments and 300 bucks had been put into our tickets.  The tickets that we are in possession of and unable to use.  Frustration and despair are not strong enough words.   What a dumb world.

I tell my wife that it's time to give up.  Let's just go back to the tram and head home with our tails between our legs.  She reluctantly agrees.  At the tram, the driver explains that they will not be leaving the stadium until the match is over.  We have to wait two and a half hours to go home.   I ask if there's a pub near by that we might be able to at least watch the game on TV.  He points us in the right direction and we set off, hoping to drown our sorrows in whatever alcohol we can find.   While walking to the pub, we hear the Verona supporters singing on their way into the stadium that we are not allowed to enter.   We hear the Juve supporters singing from within the stadium that we cannot get into.  Each rousing chorus is a dagger in our hearts.  For the first time, I feel like I've let my wife down.   I grab her hand and look at her, hoping to see a comforting smile.  Instead I see a look that can only be described as sheer, unbridled hate and determination.  "We're getting into that game." She tells me, not so much with words but with some kind of primitive grunt.   I tell her she's right, it's stupid to give up.   We find some kind of shopping complex that is attached to the stadium.  I suggest we look in side as one last gasp effort.   We run for the entrance.

We find ourselves inside what looks like every shopping mall in America.   Jewelry Stores, video game shops and food courts spread as far as the eye can see.   The first stop we make is another official Juventus store.  We explain our problem and are told to run, not walk, to a small photo shop across from the gelato parlor a few doors down.  We take a dead sprint and arrive in the photo shop out of breath.  The bearded old man behind the counter somehow manages to understand what I'm asking him between gasps for air.  "You need to print your tickets?"  he asks me.  "Si."  I reply.   He slowly stands up and offers me a seat in front of his computer.   After a few clicks, our tickets are printing.  I begin to cry.  The old bearded man gives me a confused look and says "Two Euro."  I happily fork over the coins and offer my best accented "Grazie mille!"   I would have kissed him if I thought it appropriate.   With our tickets in hand, we sprint to our gate expecting a difficult time getting through.  They don't even check our bags.

We enter our section and are immediately knocked back by the most intense wall of sound I've ever heard.  The South Curva is truly an intimidating sight to behold.  Thousands of supporters, all wearing white, black and yellow, singing and screaming in unison....eat your heart out, Seattle.

We find our seats and proceed to watch one of the most beautiful games these eyes have ever seen....and it goes by in a blur.

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