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The most popular sport in Italy is football, or soccer. Although the game has not come from a long line of tradition, as for example, as judo is in Japan, it is famous for being the country's national sport.

There are various teams all over the country, but the top league is made up of the Lega Nazionale Professionisti (National Professional League) which has two divisions, A and B. Division A has 20 clubs nationally and division B has 22 clubs. Below this league is the Lega Professionisti (Professional League) which is seperated into five divisions, the top two divisions having 18 clubs each. Under these are 5 more levels each divided into regional divisions, so it is apparent that soccer is taken extremely seriously in Italy!

The game was first started in Genoa, in 1900, where the Championship was won five times, before joining the official FIFA body in 1905. After the First World War, the game grew hugely in popularity and smaller clubs joined, making soccer in Italy the well known game it is today. The national team has won the World Cup in 1934,1938 and in1982 and recently Italy hosted the event in1990, when it finished third.

Cycling is another sport enjoyed by many Italians. There is the famous Giro d'Italia, the race inspired by the Tour de France, which was started in Milan in 1909. These days you cycle eight stages, cycling 2448 kilometres, starting and ending in Florence. Along with the Tour de France and the World Cycling Championships, Giro d'Italia makes up the Triple Crown of Cycling.

Watersports are many and varied. Italy's first surfing school was opened in Mauro, Sardinia; Diving can be had on the Tremitti Islands off Puglia, and along the coast of Tuscany.There are yachting regattas in Genoa, and sailing on any of the five largest lakes.

Horseriding is a great favourite, both the actual riding and the watching of races. The most famous race being the biennial Palio, which is the bareback horse race that has taken place in Sienna since the fouteenth century. Rome houses the International Horse Show in May, and through out the year there is flat racing, starting in February for a two month season.

With the perfect climate, golf can be played all the year round, and there are hundreds of golf courses all over Italy, by the lakes, by the sea and in the mountains. Golf was first played by the Romans, being called 'Paganica', and they used a stick and leather ball filled with feathers!

In 1922 the Monza autodrome near Milan became the first country, after France to host a motor race using the name Grand Prix. It is still home to Italy's motor racing and is enjoyed by thousands of Italians year after year.
The ‘prancing horse' of Ferrari is of course now synonymous with Italian
culture and the yearly Grand Prix at Monza, north of Milan, is a festival in itself, any car racing aside!

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