Football is a colorful world, and Italy is no exception.
You probably know that the Italian National Football Team holds the nickname of the Azzurri, due to their savoy blue jerseys that have been a trademark of the team since their earliest games.
However, most of the Italian top clubs are also traditionally known around their fan base with an appellation derived from their outfit colors. On The Cult of Calcio, you will often see us mentioning the Giallorossi or the Bianconeri, and in those cases you need to know what we are talking about.
So here it is, your definitive guide to colors in Italian football. A must-read introduction as you get deeper into the world of calcio, and a good chance to learn a few new Italian words.
No precedence should be given in such a gallery, but it’s fair to start from the three clubs that have collected the more Scudetto in their more than 100-year history.
Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan share the same outfit pattern, a black-striped shirt with a second color different for each of them: White for Juventus, whose famous epithet is Bianconeri (White-Blacks); Red for AC Milan, which are commonly referred to as the Rossoneri (Red-Blacks); Blue for the Nerazzurri (Black-Blues) of Inter Milan, which represent Milan’s other half of football maniacs.
But striped shirts are quite a common trend in Serie A and lower divisions, and that forces the 3 queens of Italian football above to share their nicknames with other clubs bearing the same colors.
Therefore, when you hear about the Bianconeri, you might also be thinking of Udinese, a stable presence in Serie A and, until a few years ago, of Siena – the Tuscany side spent quite some time in the top tier before going bankrupt and having to restart from the lower tiers.
AC Milan shares their Rossoneri nickname with Foggia, a club not seen in Serie A since the early ‘90s and that has just come back to the second tier after many years spent in lower divisions.
Behind Inter Milan, the most famous Nerazzurri are those from Atalanta, a solid team from Bergamo whose consistent good results just behind the big city powerhouses earned them the nickname of Regina delle Provinciali (“Queen of Small City Clubs”).
Roma and Lazio are the two halves of the Italian Capital’s football madness, and their club colors could not but mirror their fierce rivalry by being diametrically opposed. White and blue for Lazio’s Biancocelesti, celeste being a sort of pale blue; Giallorossi for Francesco Totti’s lifetime club.
Other notable Giallorossi are Lecce, a team you can often see swinging between Serie A, B and C, and rising star Benevento, which is expected to make its Serie A debut the coming season.
Did anybody ask for some Rossoblu? Well, there’s plenty of them in our leagues. Red and blue are the main colors of Bologna, Cagliari, Crotone and Genoa in Serie A, and many more clubs in lower divisions. Such an abundance makes it even difficult to determine who the true originals Rossoblu are – though the honor should indeed go to Genoa, Italy’s oldest club by year of foundation. Some differences in the jersey design makes it a little bit easier to differentiate among all these Red and Blues – stripes for Bologna and Crotone, quarters for Cagliari and Genoa.
Juventus’ city rivals of Torino are known as the Granata due to their peculiar dark-red (maroon?) kit, one of the few cases of a team whose nickname derives from a single color. Salernitana’s players are also commonly referred to as the Granata.
Florence’s representatives Fiorentina are another example of one-color club. Fiorentina traditionally wears an all-purple outfit which earned them the epithet of Viola.
Napoli is quite an exception among the Italian top clubs. Despite their historical blue shirt and white shorts, they never became known as the Azzurri (well, that spot was taken already…) or the Blu or the Biancazzurri or anything like that. Napoli is just Napoli. That’s odd, isn’t it?
Back to colors and nicknames, a quite unusual combination is black and green, and actually very few people had heard about the Neroverdi until small town Sassuolo’s squad made it to Serie A in 2013 and never left it.
The most prominent Sicilian club is Palermo aka the Rosanero, which wear a quite uncommon outfit made of pink shirt and black shorts.
Gialloblu (Yellow and Blue) is curiously shared by both teams from Verona, Hellas and Chievo. Then how do you distinguish between them, especially when they play against each other? Well, Chievo’s outfit is predominantly yellow, whereas Hellas features blue as their main color.
Gialloblu is also a common nickname for Parma, even though the Emilian side often uses white as dominant color.
Here’s a very interesting one: Genoa’s second club (or first, depending on which supporters you ask…) Sampdoria’s nickname is the Blucerchiati, which translates as blue-circled. The jersey of “Samp” is indeed blue and is encircled by a horizontal black and red band, a consequence of the need to maintain the colors and design of both clubs whose merging in 1946 originated Sampdoria.
For one Biancazzurri that got relegated last season, another one got promoted to make sure that next edition of Serie A will still feature at least one team wearing white and blue. Pescara left the party after only one year in Paradiso, and their spot is being taken by Spal – a club from Ferrara whose last appearance in the elite of calcio dated back to 1968!
We cannot fail to mention Cremonese, another team who’s now back in second division after some though times spent between Serie C and even lower tiers, and that features a most likely unique color palette: They are known as the Grigiorossi (Gray-Reds).
Serie B 2017-18 will also welcome back among its ranks Venezia’s side, whose appellation of Arancioneroverdi (Orange-Black-Greens) is the only example known to me of a tri-color nickname.
Among the Biancorossi (White-Reds), the most famous are Bari, currently in Serie B as well. The second level of Italian football is also the present home of the Biancoverdi (White-Greens) from Avellino (last appearance in Serie A in 1988).
Take these two team colors translation, and you should be able to easily determine the colors worn by Ternana’s Rossoverdi – which have still to make their Serie A debut.
Poetical epithet Amaranto is owned by at least two teams currently playing in third division, Reggina and Livorno. Amaranto is another kind of dark-red, or reddish-purple tone.
What’s the difference with Granata, you ask?
Hmmm. Very good question.
Anyway, what were you expecting from the Country of Fashion?
To conclude this joyful color fest, here are a couple of special mentions for lesser-known teams whose moniker go beyond simply reflecting their chromatic palette:
Padova had a two-season run in Serie A in the middle of the ‘90s, and they were known as the Biancoscudati (White-shielded).
Trieste’s side Triestina has been missing from the top tier since 1959, yet at the dawn of the 20th Century they were already quoted as the Rossoalabardati (Reds-with-a-halberd, the halberd being the symbol of the city) in a poem from local poet Umberto Saba.