If you’re a tennis fan who lives in Italy, then the week of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia is sacred.
Since the beginning of the season, every Italian fan knows exactly which week the tournament is going to take place, and starts planning to go there. As a student, mid-May is the worst period of the entire year, with final exams incoming, and so much to study. Though, every year I try so hard to organise in order to spend at least a day there. Partly because it’s the nearest and cheapest place for me as an Italian to watch some live tennis, but mostly because it’s so special that surely I’ll regret not being able to go there. And most of the time – as this year – I succeed.
Since I’d probably start an infinite stream of consciousness if I’d talk freely about the tournament, I thought it’s better to list five reasons why I honestly think that Rome is the best tennis tournament in the whole season. And I swear, my national pride will stay in the corner, and I’ll try to explain my point differently than “it is the best because, you know, Italians do it better” – which, unfortunately, most of the times is untrue.
- The location
It’s not to be forgotten that the tournament takes place in Rome, which I’d say it’s one of the best cities I’ve ever been too. It’s not only a matter of monuments and sights. In the same street, you’d find three different parts of history: ancient Romans, Renaissance, and 19th century architecture all together. Walking through the streets of the city center is really breath-taking most of the time. There’s a reason Rome is one of the most-visited cities in the world, behind only Paris and London in Europe.
Nowhere in the world is there a court like Pietrangeli. Statues à la Greek of naked heroic bodies are placed all over the court, to create such an original and unrepeatable atmosphere. Recently, Chris Evert revealed that her mother used to ask her if her double faults when playing on Pietrangeli were due to the distractions caused by the sight of the bottom of the statues! Describing Pietrangeli is quite a hard job, so I’ll suggest everyone plan to go there, while I try to find the best words to describe it. Oh, and Pietrangeli’s access is included in the standard ground ticket, with no further costs. Seeing a match there should definitely be on the bucket list of every tennis fan.
Nothing to do with tennis itself, I know. Though, through the long street across the Foro Italico – which is the name of the place where the Internazionali is set – there is a plethora of food stands. You’ll definitely come across every peculiarity of Italian food: pizza, pasta, porchetta, and I’d better stop since it’s evening time and dealing with food is… not the best thing for me to do!
- Italian supporters
I’m aware that this point is quite controversial. If you’re a purist, willing to watch a tennis match in complete silence, just skip this point. If you’re not, well, be ready to hear screams from the public after more or less every point. If an Italian is playing, then the atmosphere resembles a football stadium. If not, I swear, it’s not so different. If you’re an Italian speaker and understand the Roman dialect, then you’ll probably have your day made listening to various… how can I call them… let’s say “comments.”
- Secondary courts
If you go to Rome during the first days of the tournament, when lots of matches are played in the secondary courts, then you’ll be a bit disorientated if you put yourself in the right position: you’ll be able to see at least six courts at the same time from a single position! So, if you think that tennis should be an overwhelming experience, then go to Rome during the first days of the tournament.
I’ve listed this five reasons since they are what makes Internazionali BNL D’Italia a very special tournament. I went there one day, and came back home sunburnt – like every time I went there, so please bring your sun cream – but so, so happy. Tennis is sensational, I think this is a point to which I and everyone who’s reading this agrees. But tennis in such a place… well, go there, and let me know.