The History of Fiorentina from Ridolfi da Verazzano to Commisso

The history of Fiorentina starts with a name – Luigi Ridolfi Vay da Verrazzano – that won’t probably ring any bell to many, except maybe in Florence. So here are a few clues: Ridolfi rhymes with passion, politics, and entrepreneurship.

What else? Add a little bit of carefreeness and a good dose of recklessness. The result is a romantic mix of cultures, sports, and history – in a world, Fiorentina.

On August 29, 1926, Marquis Luigi Ridolfi – who was the president of the Club Sportivo Firenze, mostly focused on cycling – used his charm to persuade his own club members and those of the Palestra Ginnastica Fiorentina Libertas to join forces. His idea was to merge the two clubs’ football sections into a new team. That was the birth of a good piece of history of Italian Football – the Associazione Calcio Fiorentina.

The new club’s first years saw Fiorentina establish themselves and gain some experience. In their first season, they signed up to join the Prima Divisione – that’s how the Serie B was called back in the days. They were trained by Hungarian coach Károly Csapkay, who would lead them to a decent sixth-place, and wore a white-and-red outfit.

Fiorentina’s first star was Rodolfo Volk – a sturdy Italian striker with good scoring skills. Volk would play a few games under the pseudonym Bolteni as he was serving his military duties in Florence – so technically he shouldn’t be allowed to play football. He scored 11 goals out of 14 games, including what is recorded as Fiorentina’s first official goal.

After one season, the fans were already hoping to win promotion to the top-flight, but that wouldn’t happen mainly for two reasons. First, because of Volk’s departure – as the forward ended his military service and came back to his hometown Fiume to play for local club Fiumana. Secondly, because the unexpected forfeit of Messinese caused the Florence-based club to be moved to Group D of the Prima Divisione – a though group mostly featuring clubs from the Center and South of Italy. Fiorentina ended second but missed to be promoted.

Fiorentina would still be admitted to the top-flight, however, as the Italian Football Federation decided to restructure the so-called Divisione Nazionale for the first time in history and organize it in two groups of 16 teams each. Fiorentina ended in Group B but couldn’t cope with the task. Their first Divisione Nazionale experience was a disaster as they collected only 12 points, conceding 96 goals and 23 losses – including a humiliating 0-11 defeat to Juventus. Fiorentina thus went straight back into the second division.

On September 22, 1929, on the occasion of a friendly match with Roma, Fiorentina would abandon their white and red colors and wear for the first time in history their iconic purple jerseys. There are many stories related to the supposed reason for the change. Our favorite one features a washerwoman who was tasked to wash the jerseys in the Arno river but somehow messed up with the colors. But, most likely, switching to purple was a President Ridolfi idea as he was inspired by the purple jerseys of Ujpest – a Hungarian club that Fiorentina had met one year earlier.

With their new outfit, Fiorentina changed their ways and, thanks to the addition of some experienced and top-class players, managed to reach the elite division again. Florence could thus walk the stage of the newly-born Serie A and welcome players the likes of Pedro Petrone of Uruguay aka Artillero, who had won the first World Cup in 1930.

During the 1930s, Fiorentina added another milestone to their history. On top of their purple jerseys, they started to feature a song that is their official anthem to present-day – Canzone Viola, (“Purple Song”) composed by Marcello Manni and Marco Vinicio and sent down in history by local singer Narciso Parigi.

The Canzone echoed for the first time at the Giovanni Berta Stadium, now Artemio Franchi on November 22, 1931, when some strategically-positioned loudspeakers let these notes and words out:

Garrisca al vento il labaro Viola,

sui campi della sfida e del valore

una speranza viva ci consola

abbiamo undici atleti ed un solo cuore!


O Fiorentina, di ogni squadra ti vogliam regina

O Fiorentina, combatti ovunque ardita e con valor

nell’ora di sconforto o di vittoria

ricorda che del calcio è tua la storia!


Maglia Viola lotta con vigore

per esser di Firenze vanto e gloria

sul tuo vessillo scrivi Forza e Cuore

e nostra sarà sempre la vittoria!


O Fiorentina, di ogni squadra ti vogliam regina

O Fiorentina, combatti ovunque ardita e con valor

nell’ora di sconforto o di vittoria

ricorda che del calcio è tua la storia!


Forza Fiorentina!

Alé Alé Viola!

Let the purple flag unfurl to the wind Over the fields of challenge and valor

A bright hope comforts us

We’ve got eleven athletes and only one heart!

O Fiorentina, we want you, queen of all teams,

O Fiorentina, fight everywhere bravely and virtuously

In the time of dejection or victory

Remember that yours is the history of football!

Purple jersey, fight fiercely

To be pride and glory of Florence

On your banner write “Strength and Heart”

And victory shall be always ours!

O Fiorentina, we want you, queen of all teams,

O Fiorentina, fight everywhere bravely and virtuously

In the time of dejection or victory

Remember that yours is the history of football!

Go, Fiorentina!

Hooray, Purple!

However, if the 1930s can be fondly remembered for a new outfit, an official anthem, and a new stadium, the same is not true for the results on the field. The Fiorentina management could not set their team up for success in Serie A and so, despite reaching the third place in 1934 and qualifying for the Mitropa Cup, the rest of the decade saw the Viola progressively declining, until being relegated in 1938.

Their permanence in Serie B would, however, last only one season. Right after making it back to the top-flight, the Viola coached by Giuseppe Galluzzi won the first trophy in their history – the Coppa Italia. It was a fantastic exploit that helped the Fiorentina fans to divert their minds from the winds of war that were starting to blow in Italy.

All the top teams in the league fell victim to Fiorentina. The Viola put five past Milan, then four past Lazio. In the Semi-Final, goals by Mario Celoria and Giuseppe Baldini wrapped a 2-0 win over Juventus. The Final was played in Florence on June 16, 1940, and saw Fiorentina face Genova 1893 (the new, Fascism-imposed name of Genoa). Celoria was in great shape and scored the winner to deliver the cup to his side.

A few sorrowful years would follow. Italy entered World War II in 1940 and Florence had to mourn for its own victims, including midfielders Armando Frigo, Bruno Neri, and Vittorio Staccione, who perished in the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp.

After the war, Fiorentina assembled a strong side, featuring future Italy coach Ferruccio Valcareggi, goal-scorers Alberto Galassi and Giuseppe Virgili, and playmaker Giuseppe Chiappella. The coach was Luigi Ferrero, who had the right mix of experience and personality to thrive in such an ambitious environment, where a new president was in charge.

In 1956, brand-new chairman Enrico Befani’s roster was fearless and very prone to find the back of the net. Fiorentina managed to beat Giampiero Boniperti’s Juventus 4-0 in Turin and Milan 2-0 at the San Siro (despite Milan’s goalie Lorenzo Buffon being the man of the match). Vinicio and Bruno Pesaola’s Napoli also lost 2-4 to the Viola. Fiorentina grabbed the top spot in the table in Round 7 and seemed unstoppable as they continued to score and grind points.

Beppe Chiappella, along with Giuseppe Virgili and Brazilian winger Julinho literally stole the stage – together with coach Fulvio Bernardini. On May 6, 1956, a draw in Trieste was enough for Fiorentina to maintain the lead and snatch the Scudetto out of Milan’s hands. Fiorentina were Italian Champions for the first time!

The lineup that won the scudetto was: Giuliani Sarti, Ardico Magnini, Sergio Cervato, Giuseppe Chiappella, Francesco Rosetta, Armando Segato, Julinho, Guido Gratton, Giuseppe Virgili, Miguel Montuori, Maurilio Prini. The main substitutes were Riccardo Toros, Giampiero Bartoli, Sergio Carpanesi, Bruno Mazza, Alberto Orzan, Aldo Scaramucci, and Claudio Bizzarri.

After the Italian title, the Viola managed to conquer their first European trophy as they prevailed in the Grasshoppers Cup. It was an international competition with an absurd formula consisting of a five-year-long round-robin – which started in 1952 and ended with Fiorentina’s victory on May 8, 1957.

1957 was a disappointing year, however, as Fiorentina joined the European Cup (now known as Champions League) and went all the way to the Final – becoming the first Italian club to feature in a European last act – but ultimately fell to Real Madrid.

The Final was played on May 30, 1957, at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Viola had to face the seemingly-unbeatable Real Madrid in front of their 125000 supporters. Upon Fiorentina’s request, the match was anticipated from 8.00 PM to the afternoon as they were not used to play under artificial lights. The home side could boast such players as Alfredo Di Stefano, Francisco Gento, Raymond Kopa, as well as José Villalonga Llorente – the coach who would lead Spain to win the 1964 European Championship – in the dugout. Di Stefano and Gento made short work of Fiorentina and delivered the European Cup to the Spaniards.

Despite losing in the Final, however, Fiorentina were an Italian powerhouse by now. They collected four second places in a row and triumphed in the first edition of the Cup Winners Cup – the now-defunct competition that was reserved to those clubs who won their domestic cup in the previous season. Fiorentina were admitted to it despite losing the Coppa Italia to Juventus – as the Bianconeri had also won the Scudetto and thus qualified for the more prestigious European Cup.

The first edition of the Cup Winners Cup in 1960-61 featured representative teams from Austria, Czechoslovakia, West Germany, East Germany, England, Italy, Yugoslavia, Scotland, Switzerland, and Hungary. Fiorentina faced Glasgow Rangers in the double-leg Final and beat them with a double 2-0, courtesy of a Luigi Milan brace in the away game, and of goals from Kurt Hamrin and Milan again in Florence.

There was not much to celebrate, however, as Fiorentina were supposed to face Lazio in the Coppa Italia Final just a few days later. The Viola didn’t want to lose like in the previous season and fought tooth and nail this time, overcoming Lazio with goals from Luigi Milan and Gianfranco Petris. Fiorentina thus ended the season with two important additions to their trophy case.

The following seasons brought a few disappointments as Fiorentina lost the next Cup Winners Cup Final to Atletico Madrid – who was coached by the same José Villalonga Llorente who had beaten the Viola in the European Cup – and then the Mitropa Cup 1964-65 to Hungarian powerhouse Vasas Budapest.

The club’s management were touched in their pride and decided to invest in the transfer market to bring to Florence two future key players like Giancarlo De Sisti and Bernardo Rogora. The new arrivals brought experience, skills, and some hunger to win. Fiorentina caught two more trophies: First, their third Coppa Italia, beating Catanzaro in the Final after eliminating Helenio Herrera’s legendary Grande Inter; Then, the Mitropa Cup against Czechoslovakian side Jednota Trencin.

Still, an even bigger joy awaited Fiorentina in the 1968-69 season, right as the world was witnessing the Protests of 1968, Woodstock, and Richard Nixon’s first year of US presidency.

The Viola, now coached by Bruno Pesaola, debuted in the Campionato with an enthusiastic win as they came from behind to beat Helenio Herrera’s Roma. In Round 5, they suffered their first and only seasonal loss to Giuseppe Savoldi’s Bologna. Day after day, it became clear that the Viola were not joking and, when they toppled Milan 2-1 at the San Siro, their fans started to believe in the Scudetto. Fiorentina gained points and confidence, won against such historical rivals as Verona, Napoli, and Pisa, and prepared to face Juventus away in the penultimate game of the season.

What happened in Turin was pure football drama. The stadium was sold out and, despite their hunger to win, Pesaola’s boys were tense and aggressive. The first half ended at 0-0 but, after the restart, the Viola shifted into a higher gear. Brazilian striker Amarildo shot from a free-kick and called Juve’s goalie Roberto Anzolin to a save, but Luciano Chiarugi was ready to tap the ball in to give Fiorentina the lead. Chiarugi then turned provided and served an assist to Mario Maraschi, who set the score at 2-0 and delivered La Viola their second Scudetto. Fiorentina made history as they were Campioni d’Italia again!

The protagonists of the second Scudetto were: Franco Superchi, Bernardo Rogora, Eraldo Mancin, Salvatore Esposito, Ugo Ferrante, Giuseppe Brizi, Luciano Chiarugi, Claudio Merlo, Mario Maraschi, Giancarlo De Sisti, Amarildo. The substitutes were Claudio Bandoni, Pierluigi Cencetti, Giancarlo Danova, Giorgio Mariani, Giovan Battista Pirovano, Francesco Rizzo, and Paolino Stanzial.

Despite wearing the Scudetto badge on their chests, however, Fiorentina’s following season would be mediocre – the first in a series of disappointing seasons that culminated in a loss to Celik Zenica of Yugoslavia in the 1972 Mitropa Cup Final.

The following year, Florence welcomed the class and the magic of a certain Giancarlo Antognoni, who would go on to become one of the most important players in the history of the Viola. Antognoni collected 411 caps with Fiorentina and scored 72 goals – quite an impressive tally for a midfielder. With him on the field, everything seemed possible. The fans started to dream of a third Scudetto, especially after Fiorentina won yet another Coppa Italian in 1975 – beating Enrico Albertosi’s Milan – and an Anglo-Italian League Cup against West Ham. The Italian title didn’t come, however.

The 1970s ended without any more trophies and the next decade opened with a change of management, while the Italian leagues were starting to re-open their borders to overseas players. The new owners Pontello Family initially faced some criticism from their fan base as they introduced a new jersey featuring a stylized fleur-de-lis (the emblem of Florence), but operated on the transfer market with the clear idea of building a title-competitive side. Giancarlo De Sisti – who was now the team coach – was provided with the likes of Francesco Graziani, Eraldo Pecci, Daniele Massaro, Paolo Monelli, Antonello Cuccureddu, and Pietro Vierchowod.

Fiorentina were competitive but seemed to be missing something. In the 1981-82 season, their Scudetto hopes turned into disappointment as in the last matchday the Viola were held onto a draw by Cagliari, whereas Juventus won in Catanzaro to capture the Italian title.

Those were tough years. Buying such players as Daniel Passarella, Gabriele Oriali, Claudio Gentile, and even Brazilian champion Socrates didn’t help. These new arrivals didn’t seem to shine and Socrates’ experience turned into a fiasco. The Viola management changed their strategy and decided to bet on some young players – including Roberto Baggio, who joined Fiorentina ahead of the 1985-86 season but was forced to miss it due to a terrible knee injury.

Meanwhile, the relationship between the Pontellos and the Fiorentina fans was deteriorating and would ultimately lead the entrepreneurs to call it quits. Their intention to throw in the towel became clear as they sold Giovanni Galli and Daniele Massaro to Milan, as well as Daniel Passarella to Inter. They were replaced by Ramon Diaz, Alberto Di Chiara, and Carlos Dunga.

There were no trophies to be seen for a few seasons, but those years were at least embellished by Roberto Baggio’s magic. Baggio was a pure number 10, which he had inherited from Antognoni when he decided to leave Florence and end his career in Switzerland.

Baggio would play 136 games with the Fiorentina jersey and score 55 goals – including some memorable ones like a stunning coast-to-coast against Diego Maradona’s Napoli, a lethal counterattack against Ruud Gullit’s Milan, and a screamer from out of the box against Ascoli. Baggio and Florence were simply in love with each other.

Their story ended abruptly, however, as the Pontello family were struggling to cope with the Serie A financial demands and, in May 1990, decided to sell him to the Agnelli Family of Juventus for a then-record transfer fee of 25 billion Italian liras. Baggio would never be happy with the transfer, going as far as to refuse to wear a Juventus scarf during his introduction press conference or to take a penalty against his former club.

But, even without Baggio, there were some important changes coming up for the Viola. The club was acquired by the Cecchi Gori Family – who were among the most important film producers in Italy – and one of their first successful market operations consisted in bringing to Florence Gabriel Omar Batistuta. The Argentine would become another fan favorite – one of the most beloved players in the whole history of Fiorentina.

Still, despite the additional arrivals of Stefan Effenberg and Brian Laudrup, Fiorentina’s first seasons under the Cecchi Gori tenure were dreadful and culminated with relegation to Serie B. The Viola spent only one season in the second-tier before making their way back to the top-flight.

To celebrate their comeback to Serie A, Vittorio Cecchi Gori added to the club world-class midfielder Manuel Rui Costa. The whole team would benefit from the Portuguese’s arrival, including Bati-goal Batistuta, who now had his back covered and could put all his power and technique to use. The Argentine was literally unstoppable and came to gather 203 goals out of 331 caps with the Viola jersey – the club’s all-time best.

Some of his goals were extremely important. Batistuta was the goal scorer in the 1996 Coppa Italia Final with Atalanta – the fifth in the history of the club – and bagged a brace a few months later when Fiorentina prevailed 2-1 over Milan in the Italian Super Cup at the San Siro.

An equally significant goal – even though it didn’t bring any trophy – was the one he scored on April 11, 1997, at the Camp Nou. Fiorentina were facing a much stronger Barcelona side led by the Fenomeno Ronaldo Nazario Da Lima in a Cup Winners Cup Semi-Final and Bati-goal “silenced” the Camp Nou with an absolute screamer from out of the box. The Blaugrana would still advance on a 3-1 aggregate score, but that moment when Batistuta invited the opponent supporters to “shut up” after scoring such a goal is a timeless fan favorite for any Fiorentina supporters.

In the league, however, things were not quite going well. Despite boasting a formidable attacking line in Edmundo, Luis Oliveira, and Gabriel Batistuta, supported by Manuel Rui Costa – and even with the addition of Enrico Chiesa and Predrag Mijatovic – Fiorentina couldn’t seem to be rising above the mid-table.

Despite the many disappointments, Fiorentina would still manage to grab a Champions League spot in the 1999-2000 season as one of top four ranked Italian teams. Many football fans mostly remember that team for a sensational goal scored by midfielder Mauro Bressan. On November 2, 1999,  the Viola received a Barcelona lineup who could feature the likes of Rivaldo and Luis Figo. It was a spectacular game that ended on a 3-3 score. The gem of the night, however, was powered by this unknown midfielder who, 14 minutes into the game, saw the ball wandering just outside the box and, without thinking about it twice, whipped it past the Barcelona goalkeeper with a stunning overhead, wrapping what is probably one of the best goals ever scored in the competition.

At  the end of the season, however, Batistuta decided he had had enough and, after nine years, left Florence to join Roma – where he actually won the Scudetto at the first try.

Fiorentina’s last trophy is dated 2001. Batistuta was replaced by Nuno Gomes and Leandro. Under the helm of Turkish manager Fatih Terim, the Viola reached the Coppa Italia Final. However, after winning the first leg of the Final, the coach abruptly left the club, along with football director Giancarlo Antognoni, over disagreements with the management. Terim was replaced by Roberto Mancini who, on May 24, held Parma onto a tie in the second leg to secure Fiorentina’s sixth Coppa Italia.

President Cecchi Gori, however, was in some serious financial distress and was forced to sell Rui Costa to Milan and goalkeeper Francesco Toldo to Inter. The management crisis also affected the players, who seemed scared and uncertain, and couldn’t avoid the relegation to Serie B. But the worst was yet to come. Vittorio Cecchi Gori had no money left to even sign up the club for the second division and so, after 76 years of history, Fiorentina were declared bankrupt on September 27, 2002. They were forced to restart from the Serie C2 (the fourth tier) under the name Florentia Viola, after being acquired by the Diego Della Valle – the chairman of a leather goods company.

The new president built a solid team aiming at coming back to Serie A at the earliest. Among the former players, captain Angelo Di Livio decided to stay and use his experience to mentor his new teammates – including striker Christian Riganó, who would lead the team to an immediate promotion to Serie C1. The Viola would never play in the third tier, however, as at the end of a turbulent summer which saw the second division expanded to 24 teams, they received a wild card on grounds of “historical merit” to join the Serie B. The following season, they won back their spot in the top-flight.

Just two years after going bankrupt, Fiorentina had managed to come back to Serie A. It was time to be ambitious again: The likes of Giorgio Chiellini, Fabrizio Miccoli, Giampaolo Pazzini, Hideyoshi Nakata of Japan, Martin Jorgensen of Denmark, Thomas Ujfalusi from Czechia all moved to Florence. The club managed to avoid relegation and that enabled the Della Valle to secure the services of striker Luca Toni.

In the 2005-06 season, Toni led Fiorentina to grab an unexpected Champions League spot, scoring 31 goals in the process. What happened on the field, however, was wiped away by the Calciopoli scandal, whose verdict inflicted a 30-point deduction to the Viola. Fiorentina thus lost their right to join the top European competition and received an additional 19-point deduction to be applied in the following season.

A new Champions League qualification was finally achieved in the 2009-2010 season and this time the Viola even managed to advance to  the knockout stage. In the Round of 16, the fate paired them with Bayern Monaco, who could boast such players as Arijen Robben and Frank Ribery. On February 17, 2010, Fiorentina paid a visit to Bayern at the Allianz Arena. They were down 0-1 at the end of the first half and managed to equalize right after the restart. But then, Fiorentina were strongly penalized by referee Tom-Henning Ovrebo and his assistant Dag-Roger Nebben. The Norwegian pair sent off Fiorentina’s Massimo Gobbi but spared Miroslav Klose the same treatment when the Germain striker committed a foul as harsh as Gobbi’s. Klose would go on to score Bayern’s winner right in the 90th minute despite being in a clear offside position but the referee didn’t seem to notice that. Fiorentina fought tooth and nail in the second leg and managed to win 3-2, but the refereeing mistakes from the first game proved to be decisive as Bayern advanced on away goals.

President Della Valle eventually tried to bring a few more big names in Florence, including Adrian Mutu, Christian Vieri, or even World Champion Alberto Gilardino. Still, despite all the efforts, Fiorentina would never peak again – failing to elicit that same enthusiasm from the days of Kurt Hamrin, Giancarlo Antognoni, Roberto Baggio, and Gabriel Batistuta.

Fiorentina’s present has the name of Rocco Comisso, an Italian-American entrepreneur who acquired the club from Diego Della Valle in 2019 and steered them towards an average ninth place in the table at the end of a turbulent season. What will happen next?