Most popular sports in Italy

Most Popular Sports in Italy: What Captivates the Nation?

Ever wondered what are the most popular sports in Italy?

Football leads the charge, with cycling, volleyball, and motorsports also drawing crowds and passion across the country. But the list gets longer when you zoom in.

In this post, I’ll shine a light on Italy’s sports arena. I’ll tell you about:

Let’s dive in!

Key Things To Know

  • Football, especially Serie A, reigns supreme in Italy, reflecting the nation’s passionate sporting spirit and rich football history.
  • Italy celebrates a diverse sporting culture, embracing everything from the fast-paced world of motorsports to the endurance test of cycling in the Giro d’Italia.
  • Cycling is not just a sport but a reflection of Italy’s dedication to athletic excellence and a celebration of its beautiful scenery.
  • Volleyball and basketball have surged in popularity, showcasing Italy’s success and growing interest in team sports beyond the football pitch.
  • The country’s geographical diversity supports a wide range of sports, from snow sports in the Alps to water sports along its extensive coastlines, highlighting Italy’s love for both winter and summer activities.

Football And Serie A League

football a popular sport in Italy
Football is the #1 sport in Italy

Football is the most beloved sport in Italy, enthusiastically followed by millions and acknowledged as the national sport.

Italian football has produced some of the most successful teams and famous athletes in the world, such as Juventus, AC Milan, and Inter Milan, as well as legendary players like Fabio Cannavaro.

The passion for football is deeply intertwined with Italy’s cultural identity, providing many Italians a sense of pride and a lifestyle.

The Serie A league highlights the pinnacle of Italian football with its globally-recognized teams and players. Renowned clubs like Juventus Torino, AC Milan, and AS Roma compete fiercely in this prestigious league.

Governing Body: The Italian Football Federation (FIGC ) regulates and promotes football in Italy, overseeing the national football league and the Italian national football team.

The Italian football team, also known as the Italian national team or affectionately as the Azzurri, has an impressive record on the world stage, boasting four FIFA World Cup victories in 1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006.

Italy’s football history is inextricably linked with its affluent cultural tradition. The beautiful game has been firmly interwoven with the Bel Paese’s rich heritage through the ages.

Football is more than just a sport in Italy; it’s a way of life that brings people together, ignites fierce rivalries, and creates unforgettable memories. From the packed football stadiums to the lively discussions in local cafes, football has cemented its place as the most popular sport in Italy.

Fun fact: Did you know that Serie A was the first league to implement the three-point system for a win in the 1994-1995 season? This change added a new strategic dimension to the game, influencing tactics and team approaches across football leagues globally.

– Luca

Here’s the handy map with Italian football clubs in the Serie A and B:

Finally, watch this:

Basketball’s Rise in Italy

Basketball, Italy’s second most favored sport, enjoys a consistently expanding fan base and a flourishing local league.

The Lega Basket Serie A (LBA) has been regarded as the premier national domestic league in Europe from 1958 to 2007, with clubs from the LBA achieving numerous EuroLeague championships, FIBA Saporta Cups, and FIBA Kora Cups.

This success on the court has inspired a new generation of Italian basketball players who have gone on to make their mark in the NBA.

The Italian national basketball team has also experienced a fair share of success, earning gold at Eurobasket 1983 and 1999, and silver at the 2004 Olympics. The men’s team is ranked top 10 in the FIBA World Rankings, with approximately 606,000 licensed basketball players in Italy.

Famous Italian basketball players such as Gianluca Basile, Andrea Bargnani, and Simone Fontecchio have contributed to the sport’s rising popularity in Italy.

Valleyball players from Italy
Volleyball is another Italian sport that’s hugely popular

Basketball’s growth in Italy can be attributed to:

  • The country’s passion for sports
  • The success of its national team and domestic league
  • More and more young players taking up the sport
  • Italian players making a name for themselves in international competitions

Basketball’s future in Italy looks brighter than ever.

Quick Fact: Did you know that Italy hosted the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 1960, marking a significant moment in the country’s basketball history? The event showcased Italy’s growing influence in the basketball world and laid the foundation for the sport’s continued rise in popularity across the nation.

– Luca

Volleyball: Italy’s High-Flying Sport

Italian national volleyball team
Italian team – Galassi, Bottolo, Michieletto, Recine, and Pinali (photo courtesy of:

Volleyball, ranking third in Italy’s sports popularity, is adored by spectators and participants.

With a rich history dating back to the establishment of the first Italian volleyball club in Genoa in 1875, the sport has grown in popularity. It now boasts a highly competitive league and successful national teams.

The Italian Volleyball League is regarded as one of the world’s most challenging and competitive leagues.

Trentino Volley and Lube Civitanova are among the league’s most successful teams. The national volleyball team, often ranked among the world’s best, has triumphed in the World Championship on three occasions, while the women’s team has earned six European Championship titles.

One of Italy’s most significant achievements in volleyball is being the only nation to have attained the UEFA European Championship, Women’s European Volleyball Championship, and Men’s European Volleyball Championship in a single year.

Renowned Italian volleyball players like Ivan Zaytsev, Francesca Piccinini, Carolina Costagrande, and Caterina Bosetti have contributed to the sport’s popularity and success in Italy.

Volleyball in Italy is more than just a high-flying sport; it’s a testament to the country’s dedication to athletic excellence and its ability to excel in a wide range of sports. With a strong domestic league and successful national teams, volleyball continues to be a beloved sport across Italy.

Quick Fact: Did you know that Italy’s women’s national volleyball team achieved a remarkable feat in 2007 by winning both the FIVB World Cup and the European Championship in the same year? This double triumph showcased Italy’s dominance in women’s volleyball on the global stage.

– Luca

Motorsports – Italy’s Need for Speed

Ferrari F1 race in Monza

Motorsports, notably Formula One and motorcycle racing, are a significant part of Italian culture.

The Italian Grand Prix of Formula 1, held since 1921, is the fifth oldest surviving Grand Prix and a testament to the country’s long-standing love for speed.

Italy has produced legendary teams like Ferrari and world-class racers such as Valentino Rossi, who have left an indelible mark on motorsports. Motorcycle racing is also extremely popular in Italy, with riders like Giacomo Agostini, Andrea Dovizioso, Max Biaggi, and Marco Melandri achieving international acclaim.

Italian motorcycle brands have achieved great success in prestigious races and championships. Popular brands such as Bianchi, Aprilia, Beta, Cagiva, Gilera, Guzzi, MV Agusta, TM Racing, Benelli, and Ducati are among the best in the world.

Italy’s passion for motorsports extends beyond Formula One and motorcycle racing. Auto racing events like the Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale in Monza showcase the country’s love for speed and competition (there’s also another one, the Grand Prix of Emilia-Romagna, in Imola).

FACT: Scuderia Ferrari, the most successful Formula 1 team in history, has earned 16 constructors’ championships, further solidifying Italy’s position in motorsports. Get to know all famous italian car brands here.

From the roaring engines of Formula One cars to the adrenaline-pumping thrill of motorcycle racing, Italy’s need for speed is evident in its love for motorsports.

With legendary teams, world-class racers, and an unwavering passion for competition, Italy continues to make its mark on motorsports.

Did you know: Ferrari’s iconic red color is officially known as “Rosso Corsa,” translating to “racing red” in Italian. The choice of this distinctive color dates back to the early days of racing when each country was assigned a specific color for their racing cars. Italy, naturally, was assigned red, and it has since become synonymous with Ferrari and the passion of Italian motorsports.

– Luca

Cycling Culture And Giro d’Italia

Cyclists at Giro d'Italia
Cycling is a traditionally strong sport in Italy

Professional and amateur cycling is a widely admired sport in Italy. The country’s iconic races, like the Giro d’Italia, attract thousands of spectators and cycling enthusiasts worldwide, eager to witness the challenging courses and thrilling competition.

Italy, a country known for its famous Italian athletes, has produced many successful cyclists who have made their mark on the sport, such as:

  • Gino Bartali
  • Fausto Coppi
  • Francesco Moser
  • Vincenzo Nibali

These athletes have inspired countless others to take up cycling, whether for leisure or competition.

The Giro d’Italia is not the only race that captivates the nation’s attention. Italy has also participated in international competitions like the World Cycling Championships, showcasing the country’s dedication to the sport. With 1,321,000 licensed cycling players in Italy, the sport continues to thrive and grow in popularity.

Cycling in Italy is more than just a sport; it reflects the nation’s passion for athletic excellence and celebrates the country’s beautiful landscapes. From the professional peloton to the weekend warrior, cycling culture is alive and well in Italy.

Quick fact: Gino Bartali (listed above), one of Italy’s cycling legends, not only won the Giro d’Italia three times but also played a heroic role during World War II. Bartali used his training rides as cover to transport counterfeit identity documents for Jews in danger of persecution. His courageous efforts remained largely unknown until many years later, highlighting the extraordinary impact of cycling figures beyond the racecourse.

– Luca

I highly recommend watching this Giro d’Italia documentary:

Snow Sports

Italy boasts a vibrant snow sports culture, particularly skiing and snowboarding. The country’s world-class resorts and picturesque landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for winter sports enthusiasts of all skill levels.

Italy has a history of hosting the Winter Olympic Games, highlighting the nation’s love for snow sports. Italian winter sports athletes like:

  • Achille Compagnoni
  • Lino Lacedelli
  • Reinhold Messner
  • Walter Bonatti

…have achieved international acclaim at the world championships and inspired future generations of athletes to pursue their passions on the slopes.

Skiing in dolomites
Skiing in the Dolomites is so fun!

Alpine skiing is another popular winter sport in Italy, with successful Italian skiers like:

  • Alberto Tomba
  • Gustav Thöni
  • Stefania Belmondo
  • Deborah Compagnoni

making their mark on the sport. With so many talented athletes and picturesque ski resorts, it’s no wonder that snow sports continue to be popular in Italy.

Italy’s snow sports scene offers something for everyone, from the exhilarating thrill of skiing down a mountain to the peaceful serenity of a snow-covered landscape. With world-class resorts, a history of hosting the Winter Olympic Games, and a roster of talented athletes, Italy continues to be a popular destination for snow sports enthusiasts.

Interesting fact: Italy is home to one of the world’s largest ski areas, the Dolomiti Superski. Covering around 1,200 kilometers of slopes and involving 12 ski regions, it offers a spectacular range of terrain for skiers and snowboarders. The Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, provide a breathtaking backdrop for these winter sports enthusiasts.

– Luca

Water Sports

Swimming, diving, and water polo, among other water sports, are popular in Italy. Italian athletes have a history of international competition success and have excelled in various water sports, showcasing the nation’s dedication to athletic excellence both in and out of the water.

Swimming is a popular sport in Italy, and numerous athletes make their mark in international competitions like the World Swimming Championships. Diving is another popular water sport in Italy, and talented divers showcase their skills on the world stage.

Water polo, a dynamic and challenging team sport, is also popular in Italy. The national water polo team, Settebello, has had a formidable record in international competitions, including participation in the Olympics and Eurobasket. Pro Recco, one of Italy’s most successful water polo clubs, has further contributed to the sport’s popularity.

From the grace and precision of diving to the exhilarating action of water polo, Italy’s love for water sports is evident in its strong tradition of success in international competitions. Whether competing on the world stage or enjoying a day at the local pool, water sports are integral to Italy’s sporting landscape.

Tennis and Other Racket Sports

Tennis in Italy
Tennis – yet another Italian sport growing in popularity.

Tennis and other racket sports like beach tennis and pickleball enjoy a strong following in Italy, with many professional players and esteemed tournaments like the Italian Open.

Tennis is ranked seventh among popular sports in Italy, with stars like Adriano Panatta, Nicola Pietrangeli, and Francesca Schiavone inspiring future generations of players in the realm of popular sports in Italy.

In recent years, beach tennis and pickleball have gained popularity in Italy in addition to tennis. These sports offer a fun and engaging alternative to traditional tennis, attracting players of all ages and skill levels.

Prestigious tournaments like the Italian Open showcase the country’s love for racket sports and provide a platform for local and international players to display their talents. The success of Italian professional tennis players in international competitions has further cemented Italy’s reputation as a hub for racket sports.

From the clay courts of the Italian Open to the sandy beaches of beach tennis, racket sports have a special place in Italy’s sporting culture. With a strong presence of both professional and amateur players, tennis and other racket sports continue to thrive in Italy.

Quick fact: The Italian Open, officially known as the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, is one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world. Established in 1930, it has a rich history and is considered a key event in the lead-up to the French Open. The tournament attracts top players from around the globe and provides a platform for Italian talents to shine on the international stage.

– Luca

Rugby Union in Italy

Rugby match with players fighting for a ball
Rugby is nowhere as popular as football but is also carving its niche in Italy.

Rugby union’s popularity has been consistently increasing in Italy, evidenced by the national team’s participation in the Six Nations Championship and a passionate fan base.

The sport has been in Italy for over a century, with the initial official games in 1909. Since then, rugby union has continued gaining traction, particularly in the Po Valley’s northern regions and small towns.

The Italian national team, nicknamed the Azzurri, has regularly participated in the Rugby World Cup and the Six Nations Championship. With 81,537 licensed rugby union players in Italy, the sport continues to grow in popularity and develop its fan base nationwide.

Top Italian rugby union players who have contributed to the sport’s rising popularity in Italy include:

  • Sergio Parisse
  • Alessandro Troncon
  • Mauro Bergamasco
  • Mirco Bergamasco

The success of these athletes, combined with the growth of domestic rugby leagues like the Top 10 league, has helped to put Italian rugby on the map.

From the hard-hitting action on the field to the camaraderie and sportsmanship off it, rugby union has captured the hearts of many Italians. With a dedicated fan base and a national team that continues to make strides in international competitions, rugby union’s future in Italy looks promising.

Italy’s Sports Diversity: From Equestrian to Fencing

Italy’s sports spectrum is wide and varied, encompassing activities such as equestrian to fencing. This rich athletic history showcases the country’s talent and dedication to various sports, with athletes excelling in individual and team disciplines.

Equestrian sports have a long history in Italy, with events like the Palio di Siena drawing crowds for centuries. Today, equestrian sports continue to be popular, with Italian riders competing in international events like the World Equestrian Games and the Olympic Games.

Fencing, another sport with deep roots in Italy, has produced many world champions and Olympic medalists, such as Edoardo Mangiarotti and Nedo Nadi. Italy’s success in fencing is a testament to the country’s athletic prowess and dedication to the sport.

From the grace and precision of equestrian sports to the strategic and physically demanding nature of fencing, Italy’s diverse sporting landscape is a testament to the nation’s rich athletic history and talent. Whether it’s football, basketball, or any other sports mentioned in this blog post, Italy’s passion for sports knows no bounds.


What Italian sports would you love to try?

I have explored Italians’ unrivaled passion for football and other sports like basketball, volleyball, motorsports, cycling, snow sports, water sports, tennis, rugby, equestrian, and fencing. Italian athletes are famous all around the world. Pick a sport and enjoy Italy!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the national sport of Italy?

Football, also known as “calcio,” is the national sport of Italy. It has won four FIFA World Cup championships. Football has deep roots in the country’s history and traditions, making it a source of national pride.

What sports originated in Italy?

Italian culture has given the world several beloved sports, including football, volleyball, tennis, and cycling. These sports have become popular worldwide due to their exciting and engaging nature.

What is the fastest-growing sport in Italy?

Padel is the fastest-growing sport in Italy. Data from the Padel National Observatory show that since early 2020, the number of courts has increased fivefold, and padel schools and clubs have tripled. It will likely become the most practiced sport after football in the country.


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