The true spirit and recognition of sports at the international level took place with the introduction of the Olympic games in Greece. Written records point to the first Olympic games being held in 776 BC. Historians believe that games were held much earlier than the recorded times. Ancient Olympics had two major events—the Equestrian and the Pentathlon events and it later added events like jumping, running, wrestling, javelin and disc throwing. The Equestrian events introduced chariot racing and riding.

Olympic games were held every four years for around 1200 years. The Roman Emperor Theodosius banned Olympic events in 393 CE owing to the game’s pagan origin. Some 1500 years later, the Olympic games found revival through Pierre de Coubertin’s efforts. It was in 1890 that he established an organization called USFSA (Union des Sociétés Francaises de Sports Athlétiques). In a meeting of the USFSA in Paris on November 25, 1892, Coubertin voiced his desire to revive the Olympic games. His speech did not invoke any serious interest at the time, but, two years later, in a meeting attended by 79 delegates from nine countries, he again proposed the idea and it was met with success. The delegates at the conference unanimously voted for hosting Olympic games and Athens was chosen to host the events.

Sports play an important part in daily life in Italy. Some of the most popular Italian sports include soccer, cycling, Formula One racing and basketball. When you analyze the track record of Italian sports, you will realize that they have made history in various different fields of sport. But nothing compares to the success that the Italians have achieved in the sport of football over the many years that it has been participating in the game. This is definitely the most important game in the country in terms of participation and spectatorship and the Italians have a formidable track record in football history. The national team has managed to bring home the World Cup four times in its history of its participation. The Italians became world champions in 1934 for the first time. Success followed in 1938, 1982 and the Italians are the proud winners of the 2006 world cup tournament.

Some famous Italian athletes include Alessandro Del Piro, Valentino Rossi, Alberto Tomba, Roberto Baggio, Christian Vieri, Alex Zanardi, Antonio Rossi, Carlton Myers, Alberto Ascari, Gino Bartali, Primo Cantera and Valentino Mazzola. Italy has produced many well known and talented athletes and, as of 2013, many of these athletes compete throughout the world in various sporting events as well as in the Winter and Summer Olympics.

Auto Racing is another sport in which the Italians have made their mark in more than one way. The Italians are not only credited with having top class racing car drivers rather some of the world’s best sporting cars are built in the country. One of the major achievements in the world of Auto Racing is by an Italian car manufacturer, Ferrari, which has managed to win more Formula One races than any other sports car manufacturer in the world.

The Italians have also been world renowned motorcycle racers. The all time leader in terms of victories of the motorcycle Grand Prix is a proud Italian by the name of Giacomo Agostini. Even the second all time best performer in the Grand Prix is an Italian, who is famous in and outside of the country, Valentino Rossi.

Cycling is another sport that has been well represented by the Italians over the years. Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali are two of the most well renowned Italian cyclists that have won many championships throughout the years.

File:Alberto Tomba Zagreb 2009.jpg

Alberto Tomba

born in Bologna in 1966 and raised in Castel de Britti, a village in the municipality of San Lazzaro di Savena, is a former World Cup alpine ski racer from Italy. He was the dominant skier (slalom and giant slalom) in the late 1980s and 1990s. Tomba won three Olympic gold medals, two World Championships and nine World Cup season titles; four in slalom, four in giant slalom and one overall title. He was popularly called Tomba la Bomba (“Tomba the Bomb”).  As a child, he participated in sports like tennis, soccer and dirt biking, but he found that his greatest passion was for skiing.

In 1984 he took part in the Junior World Championships, where a fourth-place finish won him a position on the national B team. That year, in a parallel slalom exhibition in San Siro, Milan, he surprised everyone by beating every member of the A team. After three wins on the Europa Cup circuit, Tomba made his World Cup debut in December 1985 at Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, three days before his nineteenth birthday. Two months later, in Åre, Sweden, he surprised the skiing world by finishing sixth from the 62nd starting position. He won a bronze medal in the giant slalom at the 1987 World Championships in Crans-Montana, Switzerland and in November 1987, Tomba scored his first World Cup victory, in a slalom at Sestriere, Italy. Two days later he won the giant slalom, beating his idol, Ingemar Stenmark.

From December 1994 to March 1995, he amassed an impressive 11 victories in the technical events including seven in a row in slalom to capture the overall World Cup title that had eluded him in years past and bringing the Crystal Globe back to Italy, twenty years after Gustav Thöni’s last title in 1975. At the 1996 World Championships, Tomba finally added the final missing pieces to his trophy case, winning two gold medals at Sierra Nevada, Spain.

Alberto Tomba retired at the end of the 1998 season, but not before winning a last World Cup race at the Finals at Crans-Montana where he won the slalom, becoming the only alpine male skier to have won at least one World Cup race per year for 11 consecutive seasons.

Torta di Riso

A regional dessert from Bologna, Emilia-Romagna.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • Strips of zest from 1/2 orange
  • Strips of zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 2/3 cup Arborio rice
  • Unsalted butter and plain dry bread crumbs, for the baking dish
  • 1 1/3 cups fresh ricotta cheese (about 10 1/2 ounces)
  • 3 large whole eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons Sambuca
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Directions

In a medium heavy saucepan, combine the milk with 1 2/3 cups of water and the strips of orange and lemon zest. Bring to a boil over moderate heat.

Stir in the rice and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool and remove the citrus zests.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F. Generously butter a 12-by-8-inch glass baking dish and coat it with bread crumbs.

In a medium bowl, gently whisk together all of the remaining ingredients except the confectioners’ sugar.

Stir in the cooled rice mixture and transfer to the prepared baking dish; spread it evenly.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown and set. Let cool for 1 hour. Dust the cake lightly with confectioners sugar.

Stefania Belmondo 

(born in 1969) is an Italian former cross-country skier, two time olympic champion and four time world champion in her career. Belmondo was born in Vinadio, in the province of Cuneo (Piedmont), the daughter of a housewife and an electric company employee.

She started to ski at the age of three in the Piedmontese mountains of her native city. She made her debut at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in 1987. The next season she joined the main national team of Italy and then participated at the 1988 Winter Olympics, held in Calgary, Canada. In 1989, she won a World Cup event for her first time in Salt Lake City and ended that season second overall.

At the 1991 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, she won a bronze medal in the 15 km trial and a silver in the 4 × 5 km. The 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville brought the first gold medal for Belmondo. At the 1993 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, she won golds in the 5 km + 10 km combined pursuit and in the 30 km and a silver in the 4 × 5 km before an injury to her right hallux required surgery and caused a 4 month absence from competition.

After a second operation, Belmondo participated in the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, gaining two bronze medals; after this disappointing performance she decided to continue skiing, against the advice of her physician. The 1996–97 season was one of her best since the surgeries, when she won three silver medals (5 km, 15 km, 30 km). In the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, she won third place with the 4 × 5 km and an individual silver in the 30 km. The bronze medal in the relay was a remarkable win because the Italian team was 9th as Belmondo started her anchor leg. The 1999 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships saw Stefania win two gold medals (5 km + 10 km combined pursuit, 15 km) and a silver (4 × 5 km).

In her final year of competition, 2002, she won a gold medal, as well as a silver and a bronze, in the Winter Olympics. She ended the year as a third place winner at the World Cup. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, in her native region of Piedmont, she lit the Olympic Flame at the opening ceremony.

Bagna Cauda

Bagna Càuda is a warm dip typical of Piedmont, Italy, but with numerous local variations. The dish, which is served and consumed in a manner similar to fondue, is made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil, butter and, in some areas of the region, cream. In the past walnut or hazelnut oil would have been used. Sometimes, truffles are used in versions around Alba. The dish is eaten by dipping raw, boiled or roasted vegetables, especially cardoon, carrot, peppers, fennel, celery, cauliflower, artichokes and onions in the hot sauce. It is traditionally eaten during the autumn and winter months and must be served hot, as the name suggests. Originally, the Bagna càuda was placed in a big pan (peila) in the center of the table for communal sharing. Now, it is usually served in individual pots, called a fojòt, a type of fondue pot traditionally made of terra cotta.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 12 anchovies preserved in olive oil, drained and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks

For dipping:

A variety of raw vegetables, including fennel, cauliflower, Belgian endive, sweet peppers, zucchini and Italian bread.

Directions:

Put the olive oil in a pan with the garlic and anchovies and cook over a low heat, stirring, until the anchovies melt or break apart. Whisk in butter and, as soon as it has melted, remove the pot from the heat and whisk for a few more turns to blend everything together. Pour into a heatproof dish that fits over a flame or Bunsen burner, so that it does not get cold at the table. Serve with the crudities.

Franco Harris

played American football for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A record-breaking rusher, he led his team to its first divisional title in 40 years and then won two league championships in 1974 and 1975. He held the record for the most yards gained in a Super Bowl — 158 against the Minnesota Vikings in 1975.

Harris was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey. His African-American father served in World War II; his mother was a “war bride” from Lucca, Italy. Harris graduated from Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly Township, New Jersey and then attended Penn State University where he played for Penn State’s Nittany Lions.

It all began in Pisa, Italy, where Sergeant Cad Harris of Jackson, Mississippi met Gina Parenti, whose village had been destroyed and whose brother, an Italian soldier, had been killed by the Nazis. She married Cad and went with him to Mount Holly, N.J. Harris is the third in a family of nine children—Daniella, Mario, Franco, Marisa, Alvara, Luana, Piero and Giuseppe. Franco’s father stayed in the Army, at Fort Dix, N.J. after World War II and Franco grew up in a firmly disciplined family.

In his first season with the Steelers (1972), Harris was named the league’s Rookie of the Year by both The Sporting News and United Press International. In that season he gained 1,055 yards on 188 carries, withan average of 5.6 yards per carry. He also rushed for 10 touchdowns and caught 3 touchdown passes. He was popular with Pittsburgh’s large Italian-American population: his fans dubbed themselves, “Franco’s Italian Army” and wore army helmets with his number on them. In his 13 professional seasons, Harris gained 12,120 yards on 2,949 carries, a 4.1 yards per carry average and scored 91 rushing touchdown.

Franco is perhaps best known for the “Immaculate Reception”, a 60 yard reception in the final five seconds of the game that gave Pittsburgh a victory over the Oakland Raiders in a first-round playoff game in 1972. Franco states, “Going into the huddle, my thought was ‘this is going to be the last play of my rookie year.’ I was going to play hard to the end, savor every moment. A pass play was called and my job was to stay in the backfield and help block. When the pass protection broke down and Brad (quarterback Terry Bradshaw) started to scramble, I decided to go out on a pattern as a safety measure. Brad threw downfield to Frenchy Fuqua. Seeing this, I headed in the direction of the pass, thinking I could throw a block, recover a fumble or do something to help out. Before I knew it, the ball was coming back to me.” Franco was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

Pici

Pici is a thick, hand-rolled pasta, much like a fat spaghetti that originated in Tuscany.  The dough is typically made from flour and water only. The addition of egg is optional, being determined by family traditions. The dough is rolled out in a thick flat sheet, then cut into strips. In some families, the strip of dough is rolled between one palm and the table, while the other hand is wrapped with the rest of the strip. It can also be formed by rolling the strip between the palms. Either method forms a thick pasta, slightly thinner than a common pencil. Unlike spaghetti or macaroni, this pasta is not uniform in size and has variations of thickness along its length. Serve with a butter and cheese sauce or a tomato garlic sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups tepid water

Directions

Place both types of flour in a large mixing bowl and stir to mix well. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the water a little at a time, stirring with your hands until a dough is formed. You may need more or less water, depending on the humidity in your kitchen.

Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead it like bread until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover the dough and let it stand for 10 minutes at room temperature.

Roll the doughout and cut it into long dowels about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. Place the pasta strands between 2 hands and lightly roll back and forth to create a lightly spiraled, snake-like noodle. Place the pici on a sheet tray that has been dusted with semolina flour, cover the pasta with a clean dish towel, and set aside until ready to use. At this point, the pasta can be frozen for several months.

Lawrence Peter Berra

was born in the Italian neighborhood of St. Louis called “The Hill”, to Italian immigrants Pietro and Paolina (née Longoni) Berra. Pietro, originally from Milan in northern Italy, arrived at Ellis Island on October 18, 1909, at the age of 23. In a 2005 interview for the Baseball Hall of Fame, Yogi said, “My father came over first. He came from the old country. And he didn’t know what baseball was. He was ready to go to work. And then I had three other brothers and a sister. My brother and my mother came over later on. My two oldest brothers, they were born there— Mike and Tony. John and I and my sister, Josie, were born in St. Louis. Yogi’s parents originally nicknamed him “Lawdie”, derived from his mother’s difficulty pronouncing “Lawrence” or “Larry” correctly. He grew up on Elizabeth Avenue, across the street from boyhood friend and later competitor, Joe Garagiola; that block, also home to Jack Buck early in his Cardinals broadcasting career, was later renamed “Hall of Fame Place”.

He began playing baseball in local American Legion leagues, where he learned the basics of catching, while playing outfield and infield positions as well. While playing in American Legion baseball, he received his famous nickname from his friend Bobby Hofman, who said he resembled a Hindu yogi whenever he sat around with arms and legs crossed waiting to bat or while looking sad after a losing game.

Following his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II where he served as a gunner’s mate on the USS Bayfield during the D-Day invasion, Berra played minor league baseball with the Newark Bears. While playing for the Bears, Berra was called up to the major leagues and came under the mentorship of Hall of Famer, Bill Dickey, whose number Berra took. The following season he played 83 games for the Yankees. Berra was a fifteen-time All-Star and won the league’s MVP award three times, in 1951, 1954 and 1955.

As a catcher, Berra was truly outstanding. Quick, mobile and a great handler of pitchers, Berra led all American League catchers eight times in games caught, six times in double plays (a major league record), eight times in putouts, three times in assists and once in fielding percentage. He was also one of only four catchers to ever field 1.000 for a season, playing 88 errorless games in 1958. He was the first catcher to leave a finger outside his glove, a style most other catchers eventually emulated. Later in his career, he became a good defensive outfielder in Yankee Stadium’s notoriously difficult left field. In June 1962, at the age of 37, Berra showed his superb physical endurance by catching an entire 22-inning, seven-hour game against the Tigers. Casey Stengel, Berra’s manager during most of his playing career with the Yankees and with the Mets in 1965, once said, “I never play a game without my man.” After Berra’s Yankee playing career ended with the 1963 World Series, he was hired as the manager of the New York Yankees and later, as manager for the Mets. In 1972, Berra was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Cassoeula

Sometimes called Cazzuola, a typical winter dish popular in the Lombardy region in Northern Italy. The meat used in the dish includes mostly pork meat (usually less valuable parts like ribs, rind, head, trotters, ears, nose and tail), Verzino sausage and sometimes other meats like chicken and goose. These are cooked in a casserole with ingredients, such as, onion, carrot, celery, cabbage and black pepper for a few hours. Usually, cassoeula is served with polenta and a strong red wine. It is tradition for this dish to be eaten starting after the first frost of the season, to let the cabbage be softer and tastier

Ingredients

  • 3 carrots chopped
  • 2 celery ribs chopped
  • 1 / 2 onion chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 spare ribs
  • 8 sausages
  • 8 pieces of pork rind
  • 1 head of Savoy cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce

Directions

Place the extra virgin olive oil, the carrots, the celery and the onion in a large pan and let them cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the spare ribs and let them brown, then add the pork rind and after 5 minutes the sausages.

Cook for about 10 minutes and then add the Savoy cabbage.

When the cabbage wilts add the tomato sauce, mix all together, sprinkle with some salt and continue to cook for about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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