The 5 Most Popular Sports in Italy

For every sports fan out there, sports in Italy has a superb sporting pleasure to offer. The big 4 “F’s” Italian swear to: Family, Friends, Food & Football. Yes, I know all you football fans have a big smile on your face now and a warm feeling around your heart. 

Historically speaking Italian sport is not very rich, but that doesn’t mean they are less passionate. They practice a variety of sports: foot sport, hand sport, water sport, car sport almost every known something-sport. No really, they are almost religiously good at football, right after that basketball and volleyball, e.g. handball, water polo, and a bit harshly, rugby. 

Sports in Italy - The Proud Italian

Football (soccer)

And… the first place goes to… Italian football, or as our American and British friends would call it Italian soccer. Italy won the FIFA World cup champions 4 times, starting in 1934, then 1938, 1982, and most recently 2006… fingers crossed for the next World cup in football. Forza Azzurri is the usual chant of the Italian fan referring to the Italian national soccer team.

In the world of football, they have one of the top domestic leagues, the famous Italian football league Serie A. You probably heard of Juventus, the current champion of Italy’s premier football league, holding 35 titles.  

Probably our football fans will agree when we use “legend” next to the name of Paolo Maldini, one of the best Italian soccer players. Retiring in 2002, he left much to be remembered by playing 25 years in Italian football team Milan, four World Cups, and three European Championships, following a lot of games played in Serie A the Championship League.

As the football religion continues to roam between Italian fans, we just hope that il portiere can keep the ball from entering the goal. Since 1946: “Fratelli d’Italia, l’Italia s’è desta, Dell’elmo di Scipio, S’è cinta la testa…”oldie but goodie, the Italian national anthem still a classical hymn between fans. 

Basketball in Italy - The Proud Italian


Even though you might think, “Basketball? Italy? Really?”  yes it’s true. Basketball is the second most popular sport in Italy and one of the fastest-growing in the nation. Founded 1920, Italy has a professional basketball league, The Lega Basket Serie A. Containing eighteen teams, originating from different Italian cities, this is a major basketball league in Italy.

On an international level, the Italian national basketball team is governed by the Italian Basketball Federation. The national basketball team plays in Italy’s colors in the Olympics and other international basketball games. 

As a real Italian-American basketball fan, you already know that there are a few great Italian players signed by the NBA. Marco Belinelli is one of the best Italian basketball players and the first to win an NBA Championship in 2014, as a member of the San Antonio Spurs.

Volleyball in Italy - The Proud Italian


As I continue, I can’t help but notice that Italians are really serious about their sports. This is another sport that has its own domestic league, e.g. The Italian Volleyball League and Italian team that competes internationally.

Pallavolo as the Italians would say for volleyball has male and female teams. Often described as one of the most difficult and competitive sports. And with great respect, we can say that volleyball players in Italy are one of the best in the world. 

Interesting fact: Italy is number four on the FIVB World Ranking system for men

Water polo in Italy - The Proud Italian

Water polo

Another sport in which Italy’s national team is in the top four worldwide is water polo. Governed by the Federnuoto, the Italian Aquatics Federation, plays Settebello, the national men’s water polo team. They are the proud winners of four World Championships in 1978, 1994, 2011 and most recently 2019, when they took home yet another Gold Medal. 

Did you know that a water polo ball can speed up to 60 miles per hour, while a water polo player swims at least one and a half-mile during the entire period of the game… ?! Well, now we can be sure that the Italian water polo players are really strong guys. 

The Italian water polo male national championship has its own premier division, the Serie A di pallanuoto maschile. The champion of the league is Pro Recco, holding 33 titles.

Rugby in Italy - The Proud Italian


Gli Azzurri, or The Blues (looks like the Italians really love the blue color in their sports), is the nickname for the Italy national rugby union team. Rugby is another sport very much appreciated by the Italian people, in this case, the people of Northern Italy. 

Ranking at number 12 on the World Rugby list Italy’s team shows its competitiveness and love for this brutal but esteemed sport. Surprisingly, well at least for me, this sport is played by both males and females in 1,024 rugby clubs in Italy. Yup, let’s talk about those strong women. 

Italian national rugby team has participated in Six Nations Championships, European Rugby Championships Cup, and every Rugby World Cup since 1987. 

Segnare un gol, is what we can wish for our Italian friends in almost every sport, wishing them to score a goal is a perfect way to wrap this list of the 5 most popular sports in Italy.