Since September 13th, 1931, Stadio Artemio Franchi has been home to Fiorentina. Built by Italian architect Pier Luigi Nervi, its halls are certainly hallowed, its railings touched by the greatest players to ever play. No one can doubt the history that is in this stadium and on its pitch.
There has been a lot of debate lately around the Stadio, whether to renovate or build new. We now know that renovation isn’t an option. After nearly 90 years of impeccable service, there has been little updating done in that time. That debate isn’t for this article though. This article is designed to share the experience of the behind the scenes stadium tour; the stories, the pictures and the videos.
The pregame atmosphere at Stadio Artemio Franchi is always enjoyable. I normally get dropped off at Bar Stadio on the corner of Viale dei Mille and Viale Manfredo Fanti and make my way up to the Fiorentina Store to pick up some of the newest merchandise. After I’ve had my fix of Fiorentina swag it is customary to head up to Bar Marisa for a beverage, or at the very least appreciate their shrine to everything Fiorentina. After a drink I head to the north end of the stadium and look for some of the delicious street food and local Fiorentina vendors. Both are here in plenty. Here you can find cheap Fiorentina gear, scarves and local food and drink. Well worth it for any diehard or casual fan. The area is safe and the people here are extremely friendly.
The stadium tour starts at Ingresso Monumentale, the most recognizable and famous facade of the Franchi. Enter through the large gates and meet with one of the many professional Fiorentina guides who will help you get started. The guides at the Franchi all take pride in their job and your enjoyment. They are friendly, insightful and helpful. Today we are lucky enough to have Edoardo host us, who is the best of the bunch.
As you stand waiting in the courtyard to get started, you get to peak into several of the VIP areas. You can see chefs working in the nearby kitchens, preparing much of the delicious food lucky VIPs will get to eat. Last minute preparations are finalized. No attention to detail is spared. You try to catch a glance of any actual VIPs in attendance. Rumor has it Sebastian Frey and Tomas Ujfalusi are in attendance tonight.
The tour itself starts in the Tribuna entrance hall. Adorned with the Fiorentina logo and lit up with Viola lights, the three-story entrance hall features a large statue of a football player welcoming you. As you walk past the stairs you come to a hallway full of familiar faces: Hamrin, Di Livio, Toldo, Batistuta, Costa, Baggio, Toni, Antognoni, Socrates, Frey, Dunga and more. The thought of all of that talent collected in one place is hair raising. Edoardo takes a few moments to talk about those pictured on the walls and the contributions they have each made to the club. This is another moment to understand that these individuals working here are true fans. They each experienced so many of these moments here personally.
Flagbearers of the club’s history, these legendary players line the walls escorting you to the storied and sacred Fiorentina locker room. As Edoardo leads the group to the entrance, you turn the corner where you are greeted with a beautiful Fiorentina logo. Take a deep breath and try to hide that excitement, you are now walking into the land of Fiorentina immortality. I wish I could do this next part justice. Fearing I can’t, here is a video to help.
As you enter you find the lockers in the shape of a horseshoe; purple seat after purple seat lines the perimeter with a training table in the middle. What makes this room so special is Davide Astori’s locker. Located on the other side of the training table from the entrance, Davide is protected by Federico Chiesa on his left side and Federico Ceccherini on his right. His locker stands as it did prior to his tragic and untimely death. The memory of our captain is everywhere in this stadium, and rightly so. This includes the banner that goes around the Fiorentina locker room; the shrine that fans came to the stadium to hang their scarfs and signs on in order pay homage to our captain is captured in photographs along the perimeter of the room, honoring and remembering Davide. His spirit will never fade at this club.
I can tell that not all of those in attendance on the tour understand the significance of the moment they are in. In this, some of my family is just as guilty as the next, a few of them having passively followed the club from a distance because of me. At this moment however, everyone is genuinely moved.
There is no easy way to transition from the memory of Davide Astori, so I won’t try to.
Have you heard the legend of Fiorentina’s Viola color chosen because of bad wash? The city of Firenze has red and white as its official colors. Most teams in the city still use these colors to this day. However, legend has it that many years ago, while washing the red and white jerseys in the Arno River, they turned purple (pink?). As Edoardo tells us, that is not true. The truth lies between two other stories.
Luigi Ridolfi, the founder and first President of Fiorentina loved the color violet, as violet was his family’s official color. The Ridolfi’s family passion for botany and the color violet led them to create the “purple Rose”, now named Ridolfi’s Rose. Clearly there is only one color he would choose for his beloved Fiorentina.
The second story is much simpler and less romanticized. Ridolfi simply found a lot of violet fabric at a good price. He created the Viola shirt and these unique jerseys ended up becoming very popular with the Fiorentini public. Edoardo thinks the truth lies in the middle of these stories.
From the locker room you head back out the way you came in, this time making a left and going to the next corridor which is where the famous player stairwell is. By now we have all seen the Fiorentina team enter the stadium pregame, walking up these stairs in uniform to the locker room. This stairwell is shared with the away team who, not surprisingly, have to walk an extra flight of stairs to their locker room. Though the railing is in much need of replacement and repair it stays in place as it has for many years. Fiorentina is too nostalgic to change a railing that has had both Fiorentina and competitor legends touch it. Make sure you touch it too!
At this moment you are now looking through the eyes of every Fiorentina starting player ever. You walk down the stairs to the only corridor that leads the players to the pitch. This hallway happens to be the longest entry corridor in all of Italy, probably by design. Ensuring visiting teams in the stadium know exactly where they are, Fiorentina has lined the walls with mural after mural of the Ponte Vecchio, Il Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, Calcio Storico, Marzocco and of course many scenes of the raucous Curva Fiesole and Fiorentina faithful. Even if you are not scared, a rival walking through these halls would be hard pressed not to be mesmerized by the history that exists here, a history that extends outside of these stadio walls, protecting and insulating it from those who try to conquer it. (Video one and two)
As you approach the end of the hallway leading to the pitch, you see the last thing that the away team will see… Il Duomo on right side and Palazzo Vecchio on the left; two symbols of Firenze’s financial, artistic, architectural and cultural dominance over the country for centuries. From here it’s all uphill.
You walk up the twenty plus stairs to the pitch and exit out of a plastic canopy. Curva Fiesole is to your left, Curva Ferrovia to your right, Maratona straight ahead, and the Tribuna is behind you. The Torre di Maratona is spectacular, lit up in Viola. You can almost hear Bach’s Prelude in C Major as you look around the stadium. The first thing you notice is how calm and peaceful the pitch is pregame. The lights are on, the stands are empty, and there is no sound other than those on the tour with you. For a fleeting moment you have the entire stadium to yourself. Spin around and take it all in. (Video)
As you turn directly opposite from the Torre di Maratona and walk towards the Tribuna you locate Rocco’s seat. Just below that is the bench for the away team as well as our Fiorentina players. It truly is spectacular. Everyone on the tour takes the moment to look around and take some pictures.
You find yourself surprisingly impressed with the condition of the pitch. You hear at least 3 people ask, “Is this turf?” or “Is this fake?” No, it is real grass. It is just impeccably taken care of.
After seeing the Fiorentina Fan Club Tokyo banner near the Curva Ferrovia, you are led up the stairs of the Tribuna and back into the main area where everything started. The tour doesn’t stop here, though. The tour continues to the media room which is set up for pre and post-game manager press conferences. This room has about sixty plus chairs lined up for members of the press to all pack in. ViolaNation is one of those with access! On the back wall there is another mural of the Curva Fiesole choreography honoring Davide Astori from March 11, 2018. Another reminder of just how important he is to the ongoing personality of this club and its fans.
After this room the tour ends. You make your way to your seats to take in the next spectacle, the game.
I want to thank all of those that made this happen for us at Fiorentina and Mediacom. I really want to thank those within Fiorentina that made this tour so informational and enjoyable. Edoardo is a genuine Fiorentina gem. His desire to share his vast knowledge of everything Firenze, Fiorentina and Artemio Franchi has him as excited to read this story as anyone else. There were many others who helped throughout the tour make it truly special, who because of their roles within the club want to remain anonymous. They all deserve a lot of thanks and credit for the work they do on events like these and the work they do in the shadows that will move Fiorentina from our past into the vision Rocco has for the club.
If I had to sum up what I took out of this experience, I think I could do it in one word - LOVE. We were greeted by the most wonderful people who led us through this majestical stadium. For people like Edoardo, working here is more than a job, it is their expression of their love for both club and city. The amount of love on display through images of fan choreography in the stadium is incredible. There is no doubt as to which team has the best fans in all of Italy. The era of bandiera may be over, but the fact that I sat above Antognoni, Donadel, Dainelli, Bigica, Frey and Ujfalusi, and walked through a stadium with the images of Batistuta, Costa, Hamrin, Baggio and Toni shows the love that each of these men have for everything Viola. Finally, and most personally, the love that Davide had for this club and the love that this club and its fans will always have for him was breathtaking. I became a fan of Fiorentina because of its appeal on and off the field. It is the most amazing club situated in the most picturesque city in the world. Fiorentina has time and time again shown that it is more than just a team on a pitch. It is club, it is city, it is country, it is community. It is fashion and history and art and architecture all in one. It is love for all that is holy in sports and Davide is a perfect example of that.
Fiorentina itself proves to be the biggest bandiera for why we choose to cheer for something meaningful rather than cheering for just another bunch of stripes because it is easy. There was so much love in both the walls of this stadium and the bodies inside them.