There’ll be fireworks over the canals of Venice on Sunday when already promoted Venezia FC play their last home game of the season against AlbinoLeffe. Serie B beckons for 2017-18.
The venue might well be a crumbling, century-old stadio – the Pierluigi Penzo, named after a pilot from World War I – but the occasion is worthy of the wider setting, the easternmost stretch of the historic island city, Sant’Elena, with open sea beyond.
Here top US Italo-American defense attorney Joe Tacopina, an avowed calciophile, has started to build a new Venetian empire. Having been involved in the first foreign takeover of a major Italian club, AS Roma, in 2011, Tacopina then took over as president of Bologna before being captivated by the allure of Venice.
Setting up an entirely new club from the ashes of the bankrupt one and naming it Venezia FC, he had renowned sporting director Giorgio Perinetti bring in a fresh squad of players. In the summer of 2016, having gained promotion from Serie D to the third-tier Lega Pro, they brought in Pippo Inzaghi. The former Milan star duly persuaded to return to management, the Lagunari then dominated their regional division and had the title sewn up by mid April.
While the stadium has barely changed since Tacopina’s takeover – in fact, it’s hardly changed since Venezia won the Coppa Italia in 1941, with tragic Torino stars Ezio Loik and Valentino Mazzola in the line-up – the American has grand plans for the flagship club of Italy’s tourist jewel.
Replacing the logo of the city’s historic winged lion for a rather crass snarling one, Tacopina has rebranded as well as renamed his club. Its website is clear and informative, giving details of the €3 transport connection with the cheap mainland car park of San Giuliano, though neutrals may prefer the scenic route, arguably the scenic route of all scenic routes, vaporetto from Venezia Sta Lucia train station (Ferrovia). Waterbus No.5.1 to Lido/No.4.1 to Murano leave from quay C, allow 35min – on the 5.1, don’t forget to look out for the Biennale art pavilions at Giardini the stop before Sant’Elena. The ground, set alongside bobbing gondolas, is a short walk straight off the boat, past the Hotel Sant’Elena, and right over the water.
By 2019, romantic as the vaporetto jaunt might be, all this may be a thing of the past as Tacopina hopes to have a new 28,000-capacity stadium built by then, on the mainland near the airport. He may need it sooner if the Lagunari make Serie A a year from now.
Venezia FC-AlbinoLeffe, Stadio Pierluigi Penzo, Sant’Elena. Sunday April 30, 5.30pm. Tickets €10 Curva Sud (home)/Nord (away), €18 Tribuna Valeria Solesin, from botteghino window behind Sant’Elena hotel. Other outlets, also Venezia FC HQ (Mon-Fri 9am-12.30pm, 3pm-6pm), viale Ancona 43, Venezia-Mestre.