San Siro, Milan - for those of you who know sport you will immediately think - aha! joint home of Inter Milan and AC Milan - those two famous football teams. Of course you are right - this is a football stadium but I was lucky enough to visit the stadium last weekend for the first ever international rugby game in Milan. Italy versus the mighty All Blacks!
Now the stadium holds approximately 80,000 and nobody in Italy expected football mad that it would be possible to sell it out for a rugby game (the previous record for an international rugby game in the country being 39,000) but they had so we went along to a full San Siro Stadium!
Look of the stadium
It is huge when you first approach it and it looks very imposing- there are four stands joined together with the Western side being smaller than the East. For some reason they have not built all the sides up to the same height - I assume at some stage that they will do so.
The stadium is very attractive to look at - a sight worth seeing in itself I think!
Location and Transport
The stadium is well served by road and rail - the Milan metro being 5 minutes walk away - along a road lined with stalls selling merchandise and yummy looking paninis! The Italians can certainly beat grotty chips that we tend to get in the UK!
If you choose to drive - there is plenty of parking and it costs between 10 and 25 euros for cars and coaches - again cheaper than Twickenham!
The car park is well marshalled by stewards who make you park in exactly the right place!
Is via a series of gates which are all very well labelled so you know where to go. Expect to have to scan your ticket on a bar code reader before entering, then through a turnstile you go! If you have a bag this will then be searched - men were getting a pat down from very large security guards as they entered. As I am seven months pregnant the security guard took one look and waved me through!
You won't be allowed to take in glass bottles, weapons, fireworks or plastic drinks bottles with the lids on them. They do let you carry in a water / coke bottle with the lid off which is the same as lots of other stadiums so wasn't a problem.
Finding your seat
Can actually be difficult as there is a distinct lack of signage inside - for example we were sitting in the cheap seats right up the top but had no idea which set of steps to use. The stewards were more than happy to help though - just make sure that you try to speak Italian to them and they will answer in English - start the conversation in English and expect to get a blank look!
Access to the seats
If you are up the top as we were there is a choice of steps or ramps - we walked up a spiral ramp - it took about 5 minutes to get to the top - if you are in a wheelchair you can use the ramps or a lift. I think that there is also a special wheelchair seating area. Get there early if you are in the cheaper seats as the actual seats were not allocated. We were just in the "red" zone which meant that we could sit anywhere in the zone. Not sure if this is the case at football games - especially when it is an AC / Inter Milan local derby!
In your seats
The seats are a good size and you have a reasonable amount of legroom. Although we were up top we had a fantastic view of both the action and the big screen. I don't think there are any restricted view seats in the stadium as it is very well designed! The crowd were very noisy but good natured!
Toilets - very important, and not the strongest point of this stadium. Toilets are well labelled and there are a reasonable number of them - however the female toilets were all "squatters" and got VERY messy Very quickly unfortunately! As a female it was brilliant to be able to walk past a massive queue of men to go into the ladies though (now you know how it feels to wait guys!)
Food and drink
This puts English stadiums into the shadows I am afraid. No greasy pies and chips - expect freshly cooked Panini - pasta / pizza everywhere. Reasonably priced less than 5 euros for a sandwich. The beer on sale in the stadium is Peroni and is available at the bars and from at seat vendors - expect to pay 5 - 7 euros a bottle. Again, not sure if you are allowed to drink at football games.
There are lots of well signposted food outlets and a remarkably civilised queuing system.
Again, a black mark for the Italians - so much at seat smoking it is horrible if you are a non smoker and now I am used to non smoking stadiums in the UK I found this unpleasant. But if you wave the smoke away the locals at least make an attempt to blow it away from you!
Programmes - cost 5 euros for this game - consistent with UK rugby internationals.
There is nothing like the sound of 80000 Italians singing their amazing national anthem - the sound system broke so you could not hear the accompaniment - did it matter - not a bit, the Italians sang (remarkably tunefully) even coping with the key change. Absolutely amazing!
My hubby's all black team came through beating the Italians - did they care? Well apart from booing the referee (who was SHOCKING) not a jot - there was a great party atmosphere throughout and we had our hand shaken by lots of Italian fans at the end.
Worth a trip?
Definitely - if you can go to a rugby game / concert at the stadium then you should do so - I think that a football game would also be great but probably much harder to get tickets for! Plus a little more intimidating!
There is also a museum of football focussing on both AC and Inter which is worth a trip in itself!
Summary: Definitely worth a visit folks