Italy has long been a global hub of athletic excellence, and that isn’t just confined to one or two sports. The ancient town of Rieti, an hour or so outside of Rome, has been a mecca for world records, according to The Guardian, a physical expression of the athletic performance that Italians put into every sport. At the heart of this excellence is a love of sports and that doesn’t just mean on track and field. No, indoor sports are a phenomenon in their own right in Italy, and are more popular than ever, starting with a sport you might not have expected – darts.
Italy’s darts history
Darts is a sport more commonly associated with England and the Netherlands, historically two of the biggest producers of finals tournaments contenders. Despite the culture of hard drinking that surrounds darts, it’s actually a surprisingly physical past-time. Professionals often contract tennis elbow playing darts, due to the repetitive motions involved in throwing round after round. Darts is surprisingly popular in Italy, and the country has produced professionals including Daniele Petri, Stefano Tomassetti and Andrea Micheletti. Furthermore, Italy is one of only 32 teams to feature at the World Cup of Darts, narrowly losing out in 2020 to Spain in the first round. There are few better, or more accessible, indoor sports in Italy.
The basketball tradition
Another big player in the indoor sports scene, and potentially the second-most followed sport in Italy overall, is basketball. The scene in Italy is of such quality that even the New York Times, a paper based in a country that has the most high-profile basketball leagues in the world, recommend watching Italian games more than American ones. A high performing country within the basketball scene, Italy counts Olympic silver medals among its long tradition. Basketball is playable indoors, and there are vibrant local scenes going on everywhere – as always, check local restrictions, but if you can mix for sports, you’ll seldom have a better time than when playing basketball.
No mention of sport in Italy is complete without a mention of football – or, rather, futsal. The indoor, hard-court variant of football is played throughout Italy, and this has shown in the success of its international teams. Italy has won two UEFA championships, most recently in 2014, against their peers from across the continent. The home win in 2003 was particularly dominant, with Italy winning five games and losing none. More accessible on entry than 11-a-side football, futsal is nevertheless tough work – the small courts and alacrity of skill and mind required often leave newcomers gasping for air. Like basketball, however, and the slightly less intensive darts, the vibrant Italian community that has sprung up around futsal will make sure every game is a fun one.
New arrivals to Italy, or simply people looking for another past-time, have lots of options. The indoor sports scene is as healthy as it is anywhere in the world, and that means you can enjoy recreation in a competitive and fun way.