Friday, 14 January 2011

Lost Weekend #1 Tuscany

Having visited the area a number of times I thought I'd write a little bit about my experiences and share some of my knowledge. Obviously the main City in Tuscany is Firenze (Florence) but there is far more to this part of Italy than meets the eye.

I usually stay in Empoli which is halfway between Pisa and Florence but is situated on the main trainline making it a cheaper option than both Florence and Pisa which tend to cater for the tourist market. In general the standard of accommodation will be poorer in the more touristy areas as it is easier to fill the hotels.

The  train journey east from Pisa is excellent if you're a groundhopper (anorak!) like me. There are numerous football pitches/grounds in various states of disrepair, making them all the more beautiful in some ways.

The hotel I have used on previous trips was booked via ebay but can be booked directly via the website. It is primarily a business hotel however it is both modern and clean (and cheap!) and is only 1300 metres from Empoli station.

With it's cobbled streets and town square, Empoli is fairly typical of many Italian towns but pleasant nonetheless.

There are plenty of places to eat in Empoli but the best we found was only yards from the hotel and was called Bar Meeting. Signed football shirts are hung all over this friendly bar and the food is excellent. The service is also fantastic and the staff cannot do enough to help.

Siena is one place that is well worth a visit. Not as touristy as it's Tuscan counterparts which is a good thing in my eyes, Siena is the home of the Palio, a horse race run through the streets at breakneck speed that people queue for days to see. We arrived at around lunchtime and walked up from the station to the main town (about 2 miles) which offers some spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside. After wandering around the cobbled streets and coming across this shop at Via del Paradiso 35 where I picked up a Mentalita Ultras/80s Casuals

t- shirt we decided to go for a drink and a bite to eat. There are plenty of bars and restaurants including an excellent Irish Pub which serves Ichnusa Lager from Sardinia as well as a free buffet in the afternoons. After a few drinks there we wandered down into the main Piazza del Campo. Plenty of restaurants to choose from and the bars never seem to close, we eventually left at about 2am although trying to negotiate the narrow cobbled streets was something akin to climbing Everest in flip flops! We found a hotel (having missed our train back to Empoli) and after submitting our passports settled in for a night in what can only be described as a retro room.

Pisa is obviously famous for the leaning tower and to be honest can be seen in half a day. For the groundhoppers, the home ground of Pisa is about 500 metres from the tower and the floodlights are clearly visible. The tower is a fair walk from the station and is signposted all the way. Food-wise I would avoid the area nearest the Tower and head back towards the station where you will notice small piazzas/squares which represent much better value for money and more authentic Italian dishes. We had Wild Boar tagliatelle and a bottle of wine for just over 20EU. As with many Italian cities, beware of pickpockets and street sellers as they are especially prevalent in places like this. Pictured below is the tower but if you look closely, you can see the stadium floodlights!

Finally, Florence. Home of great painters, sculptors, musicians and la Viola, AC Fiorentina. Florence is a spectacular city with numerous galleries however rather than spend a day queuing to see one gallery I would advise just walking around and taking in the surroundings as there is plenty to see without queueing for hours on end. As a major tourist destination, Florence is what you'd expect, noisy and bustling, full of coach trippers falling over themselves to buy an I love Florence t-shirt for little Johnny back home. Ignore these fools and look for the San Lorenzo market where you can buy good quality leather goods as well as scarves, ties and pretty much anything else. There is also the impressive Ponte Vecchio bridge which is chock full of jewellery shops and leather wares. As the pound is as weak as a sparrow, most of the shopping I did was purely window shopping, however there is an out of town outlet village located in  if you have the time: The Mall. There is also a McArthur Glen about 30km from Florence: McArthur Glen Barberino. If you're looking for food there are plenty of restaurants offering a tourist lunch which is usually a pizza/pasta dish and drink for 10EU per head, not bad value and nice and quick. If you want to get to the Football Ground (Artemio Franchi) take the train to the Campo di Marte and once alighting you ground should be easy to find! There are numerous bars around the stadium that serve beer for half the price of the city centre which are obviously a lot quieter when there isn't a game on. 2 bars worth looking out for located in front of the main entrance are Bar Marisa and Bar Stadio, both of which sell tickets for Fiorentina home games and are hotbeds of football chat!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Italy Away

It's been a few weeks since I got back from Italy but managed to get to 2 matches, AC Milan v Fiorentina and Pavia v Alessandria. An excellent trip despite the constant rain (and people think Manchester is bad!).

Highlights of the games can be seen below.

Loyalty or Insanity?

Not sure how many of us played in a game like this at under 12 level.

Lech Poznan v Spurs (U-12)

Thursday, 16 December 2010


Paninaro (Italian pronunciation: [paniˈnaːro]; feminine: Paninara; plural: Paninari; feminine plural: Paninare) is a name that was born behind a group of youngsters that used to meet at the bar Al Panino (At the Sandwich) in Via Agnello, in Milan, during the early 1980s. after that, they used to meet in Piazza San Babila where the "Burghy", an Italian fast food chain, just opened his first restaurant - later bought by Mc Donald's. The subculture was famous for its apolitical nature and its twin obsessions with fashion and Americana, contrasting sharply with the politically-aware generations of 1960s and 1970s.

The Paninaro scene developed in tandem with the vapid hedonism of the 80s, fostered by Reaganomics, Thatcherism and deregulation liberism and was eagerly embraced by the sons of well-to-do professionals who benefited from the widening gulf between high-income families and salaried workers.
It was also reinforced by the diffusion in Italy of Berlusconi's television channels, which transmitted messages of consumerism and fostered a fetishistic urge of self-affirmation through the acquisition of status symbols. Among these one station Italia 1 was explicitly aimed at a younger target, broadcasting then-popular US series, movies, cartoons and comedy shows which had unparalleled popularity in the 10-25 age range.
The Paninaro look's cornerstones were: Timberland boots or Vans deck shoes, Armani jeans rolled up to ankle height, El Charro belts with Texan or western-style big buckles, Best Company sweatshirts, bulky Moncler jackets and brightly colored Invicta rucksacks.
Other popular items were Ray-Ban sunglasses, Naj-Oleari underwear, Fiorucci and Moschino accessories, Controvento and CP Company clothing.

In their heyday, Paninari were lampooned in the Italia 1 comedy show Drive-in by Enzo Braschi, who played a character depicting the shallowness of the subculture and its unending vulnerability to newer trends and fads of the 1980s (New Romantic, Dark-Goth, Rambo-like, and so on...). Braschi later dropped the character after a season in which he appeared in military uniform relating his experiences in the then-compulsory service in the Italian Army (then a rite of passage signalling detachment from the teenage years).
The Paninaro movement was also diffused in some European countries, and is immortalized in the cult song "Paninaro" from 1986 by the Pet Shop Boys.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Stone Island/CP Company Discount Code

Being a priviledged Stone Island and CP Company customer, they have sent me a discount code for 25% off. The code to enter at checkout is: SANTA2010

Monday, 13 December 2010

Items For Sale

I'm in the process of having a much needed clearout and have listed a few things on ebay with more to come in the coming weeks. If you are interested in any of the items, please contact me and we should be able to come to an arrangement. The link for my ebay is: My Ebay Selling

Friday, 3 December 2010

Our Proving Grounds (13) Garnlydan

Playing in the North Gwent League Premier Division, not far from Ebbw Vale in the Welsh Valleys, this ground was a brief stop off on the way home from a weekend in Crickhowell.

Our Proving Grounds (12) AC Pavia

On a recent Italian jaunt I had the pleasure (?) of attending AC PAvia v Alessandria in the third tier of Italian football. Situated 30 minutes from Milan, the town was easy enough to reach, however the stadium was a 3 mile walk from the station with no buses running to the ground on matchdays. An 8EU taxi ride got us there 2 hours before kick off which turned out to be a complete waste of time as the stadium is in the middle of nowhere. A crowd of about 700 were treated to a 1-1 draw with both goals coming in the second half.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Our Proving Grounds (11) Weston Super Mare

I had the pleasure of accompanying Sean (80s Casuals) to the game against Thurrock on 13.11.10 at the Woodspring stadium. After a few beers in town we set off to the game and had a few drinks in the bar before making our way onto the terracing behind the goal. A crowd of 150 witnessed a much needed 2-1 win for Weston.

Our Proving Grounds (10) Crickhowell FC

Located on the main road between Abergavenny and Crickhowell, I passed here as the ground was being prepared for the Gwent Central League Premier Division game Between Crickhowell and Raglan on the 30.10.10. For the record, Raglan won the game 4-1.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Since You've Been Gone

Due to moving house and the stresses and strains that come with it, it's been a while since my last post but fear not, I've got plenty of pictures etc to put up which I'm hoping to sort out in the next few days.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

On the Books

I read this book a few years ago and had been looking for a reasonably priced copy. Once again eBay was there like a trusty old friend (who is continually asking to borrow money).
An excellent book detailing the story of how Adidas and Puma revolutionised the world of sport and the advertising, fashion and endorsement aspects. No stone is left unturned and I would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in the subject matter.


Items I didn't need but bought anyway #6

Another 2 pairs of trainers......

First up is a pair of chalk/blue Adidas Rom from Hanon Shop.

Secondly is a pair of Montreal I picked up in Size? Cardiff.

Contra Heroes

Born in Elgoibar, Gipuzkoa, Etxeberria began his career with Real Sociedad, making his top level debuts at only 17, in a 2–0 home win against RCD Español, on January 29, 1995. That summer, he moved to neighbour Basque outfit Athletic Bilbao, in a controversial transfer that cost over €3 million. At the time, it was the highest transfer fee paid for an under-18 player in Spanish football.
In 1997–98, Etxeberria netted 11 league goals, as Athletic finished second, achieving a career-best 14 five seasons later, while he was also eventually awarded club captaincy.
On 1 October 2008, already playing second-fiddle for the team, Etxeberria agreed a deal with the club according to which he effectively played 2009–10, his last season as a professional, for free, after his contract expired in June 2009.
Etxeberria's last season was not a successful one individually, as he only appeared in seven league matches (plus another seven – with two goals – in the UEFA Europa League). On May 15, 2010, he was replaced to a standing ovation in Athletic's 2–0 home win against Deportivo de La Coruña, and represented his main club in 514 official matches (105 goals), third-best in the team's history, only behind José Ángel Iribar and Txetxu Rojo. 

Friday, 24 September 2010

Loyal Supporters?

Italian second tier outfit Triestina have come up with a novel way to deal with their disappointing attendance figures. Struggling to fill their 32,454-seat Stadio Nereo Rocco, the club took the decision to close one of their stands for the entire season.
But rather than face the embarrassment of playing in front of thousands of empty seats, the stand has been covered with giant posters of fake fans.
The plan seems to be working a treat so far. Triestina won their match against Pescara 1-0 on Sunday, the stand closure was vindicated by an attendance of 3,810 genuine supporters, and those flat supporters not only seem to be having a great time, they also look good for the TV cameras.

Decisions, Decisions

A weekend break in Clevedon beckons and with that in mind a check of the local football fixtures has left me with a number of options. Either Clevedon United v Winscombe  or the local derby between  Nailsea United and Ashton & Backwell United in the Errea Somerset County League Premier division (level 11 of the Football Pyramid). My third and favoured option would be the game between Portishead and Devizes Town in the Toolstation Western Football League Division 1 (level 10 of the Football Pyramid).
Hand Stadium Clevedon

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Items I didn't need but bought anyway #5

Adidas Tennis Super. Size 9. BNIB. Job done.

On the Books

Calcissimo has just arrived at Contra towers. A photographic record of many aspects of Italian football from 1997 - 2006. This A4 sized book comprises 80 pages and some 140 photographs and is available here.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

You're not wearing that are you?

Spending many a lunchtime in Cardiff city centre has given me a valuable insight into the fashion habits of our Welsh brethren. From floppy tea cosy hats to daft daps, here's a rundown of what to be seen in this autumn.

1. Henleys t-shirt and McKenzie tracksuit bottoms with £15 JD Sports daps. A diamonte stud earring is optional but a daft haircut is essential to really carry this off.

2. Hollister hooded top, university tracksuit trousers and billabong flip flops.

3. Skinny jeans, hobnail boots, Ramones t-shirt and waistcoat. Knitted tea cosy optional.

4. Distressed look jeans, brown loafers and Wales rugby shirt. More common during the egg-chasing season.

5. Full Nike tracksuit preferably with hooded jacket (trousers tucked into socks), Nike Air Max and hard looking dog.

6. Gio Goi t-shirt with slogan, G Star jeans, Electric blue/pink Adidas Forest Hills.

Our Proving Grounds (9) Stade de France

Although it seems like a dream now, I attended 2 games at the Stade de France during the World Cup of 1998. The semi-final between France 2-1 Croatia (08.07.98) and also the final between France 3-0 Brazil (12.07.98)