The following is a dialogue of the vacation I’ve worked towards since I was a boy; a voyage to Rome to see the Derby della Capitale.
Naples to Rome
6:30am. I wake up by sneezing blood out of my nose, as the allergies in Naples have infiltrated my head. Ahhh.
I have 20 minutes to run down a laundy-hung alley, and make my way to Napoli Centrale.
I’m wearing my Roma track jacket, and it’s the day after Roma beat Leverkusen. It took a grand total of twelve seconds for a Fiat with several guys to give me dirty looks, yell, and beep at me.
This is my almost-final approach to the Derby della Capitale.
I arrive two hours later in Rome, and have to meet my friend, who we will call John, at 12:00pm in Termini. I run down the station stairs to the ticket machine, for the Metro to Barberini. Non si lavora. Why does this machine not work? I run back up the stairs, carrying my 30 pound pack on my shoulders. Okay, let me find the guy. “Si, vai giu!” Back down the stairs he tells me. I remember I have cash on me, so I try to use that instead of credit.
Eight different machines, not one of them accepts a 10 euro note, or credit. My head enrages like one being held hostage from their lover. Roma I mean, not the ticket guy upstairs. Back up. The only way to get a ticket is by waiting 20 minutes on a help line, for lost American and Chinese tourists who are having serious problems. I wait the 20 minutes, stamping my feet, pacing back and forth like a child. Finally, in a deep sweat, I get the tickets. Both picture Totti on them. I’m on my way.
Since the ticket boothman told me to take Spagnola instead of Barberini, I follow his instructions for getting to Piazza Colonna. He was completely wrong. In what seemed like an ascension of 3,000 feet, I finally exit the Spagnola station, and find myself absolutely, completely, extremely angrily lost, exhausted, and dripping sweat on top of a hill in Rome.
Relax, just stop being so God-damn cheap, and buy yourself a taxi.
I do. I find a woman who takes me right to Piazza Colonna, and I get right into the official Roma Store, which sells match tickets.
I wait on another line at the entrance, before being told I can only buy tickets upstairs. I now have 20 minutes to get back to Termini, before John thinks I’ve been abducted by the Italian train guy from Europtrip. Mi scusi!
At the Roma Store, I’m told that the only tickets left are for 90 euros each. That’s about 70 more than I intended to spend. Non ci sono altri?? I ask, desperately. “And I will need youra passaportas.”
My accent tends to make those with a decent understanding of English quickly use it when I speak. I’m now a bit up a creek, having to spend much much more than I thought for me and my John, and not being able to get them at all, because I don’t have his passport on me. I wait, and let the guy behind me go, before I decide what to do.
Okay, I will take them. “Wait!” She yells. “I have two left, last two, 45 euros each.” Ahhh perfect! But I don’t have the passports. “Well, okay, just write your names down and I will take care of it.” Thank you so so much. Tickets purchased. I believe I just pulled a massive rabbit out of the hat. What a gift needed. This is something I’ve been waiting for all my life.
Back to Termini to meet John. He sees my orange duffel bag from 100 meters away. I walk like I just won the Superbowl, holding the tickets proudly above my head. Or maybe it’s more like when Charlie & the Chocolate Factory finds the Golden Ticket and gets to take his grandpa. John won’t appreciate me calling him Charlie’s grandpa.
Up to Florence for three nights. I stay with my friend Freddy, who I met when I went to school in Italy. After a stomach full of gelato and Chianina beef, it’s time to leave. Though, Freddy has a “surprise” he says. The night before I leave at 9am to Rome, he buys a bottle of vodka at Florence’s most known club, Space. It’s going to be a long night. I am not much of a drinker, so I just kinda take up space and give em the ole Jersey Fist Pump. It’s always playing Everytime We Touch inside my head. And everytime we kiss, I swear I could fly. Sorry.
I warned John not to get involved with the students in Florence, who are ya know, very young and excited. Young, like 18/19 young, just as I was almost a decade ago. At Space, we meet Freddy’s friends, one of them a student. Long story short, John ends up trying to keep her from getting sick with Freddy, and is with her until 6am. The train for the derby is at 8:30am.
Clock rings at 8am. I’ve only slept three hours, John, less than two. Scrambling for our bags, we run down the stairs of the hotel and are stopped short by the hotel deskman. “You have to pay.” Any delay is truly a delay we can’t afford right now. It’s a sprint to Santa Maria Novella train station. We get there with a minute to spare. 55′ delay. CAZZZZZO.
John and I post ourselves in a cafe, falling asleep at the bar inside the station. Cold, annoyed, and delayed, the Derby is jeopardized once again. An accident in Bologna? When does this ever happen.
Arriving at the Stadio Olimpico
Finally here. Exhausted but pulling it together. Just twenty minutes ago, we could not find a taxi and had not enough time to take the bus. A flamboyant turkish ex-prisoner with one hoop earring tells me it’s 50 euros to get to the station. I curse at him. John hails the taxi behind him, who is a genuine taxi. He notifies us that the man was a thief, and came from Turkey, after getting in some trouble for coordinating homosexual activities inside Turkish prisons. You can’t make this stuff up.
He gets us there for 11 euros, and gets a 6 euro tip. Good guy.
An espresso down the hatch makes everything 100x better. Now I’m freakin ready.
You can hear Roma, Roma, Roma being screamed inside the stadium, way before you enter. The police force of over 200 local police, Carabinieri, and military make it seem more like a war zone than a match. I’m searched three times.
700 protesters are outside the team hotel in Tiburtina, chanting and singing the team when they head to the stadium. The team would later return to thank the fans after the win. The Curva Sud? Dead empty. No fireworks, no flags, no choreography, but lots and lots of singing. I felt eternally grateful to be amongst the team and the fans, and surely missed those protesting, although I truly sympathize.
Just ten minutes in, Džeko is brought down inside the box. “Ole, ole ole ole! Dzeko, Dzeko!!!” erupts throughout the stadium, as he smoothly slots the ball past Marchetti. Gervinho’s half-field run to goal seals the match just fifty minutes after. The electricity, not just a word, the electricity, the electricity ran through my body and everyone else’s inside the stadium. This Derby win was for the city, for those there and not there, who spend the money they don’t have to unite as one, pushing the lupi onto victory. The world was red and gold that day.
As the final whistle blew, I subconsciously spoke out loud: They’re going to win the Scudetto.