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A pilgrimage to San Siro and beyond

Featuring Icardi as a bird, Icardi as a bobblehead, and the greatest stadium in the world

Aerial View Of Stadio San Siro, Milan Photo by Blom UK via Getty Images

If the Mauro Icardi transfer saga could be likened to any phenomenon in the city of Milan, it would be the pigeons in the Piazza del Duomo.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting, the tradition is to hold out some grain and a pigeon will arrive in an instant, literally landing on your body to snack. It’s a nice exchange while it lasts. They get their food; you get an experience.

But then you don’t want to feed them anymore. You’ve moved on, you’ve got other things to do. Thanks for the memories, feathered Icardi, but it’s time to say goodbye.

Yet the pigeon remains latched on, ruffling its feathers and causing a scene. There’s plenty of other tourists in the square, maybe from Turin or Manchester, offering more grain than you can manage. So why won’t it leave? What does it gain by staying? Is its pigeon agent-wife making it stay? Why won’t it just piss off already?

Throw in a pigeon love triangle, a botched pigeon swap deal and an eventual flight to Pigeon Saint-Germain (Woof. That sounded better in my head), and they’re similar, right?

This is just one of many ridiculous thoughts stemming from my recent trip to Milan. Most importantly, this was my first chance to see the San Siro. Here’s what I found out along the way.

Real Madrid v Club Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza isn’t exactly in the beating heart of the city, but the metro service means you can travel from most places to the stadium like a breeze. There’s an Inter/AC Milan store before you even leave the closest station. Whether or not all the items displayed there are official is another question; Milan, like most other tourist destinations in Italy, is filled with unofficial shirts, scarves and more gimmicks for sale on every street.

The stadium hits you straight away. Big. Very big. Looks as if it’s about to take off back to its home planet. Brutal against the Milanese skyline. Utterly stunning.

On this particular day, a man sporting a Flamengo shirt giddily runs in front of the stadium. Flapping in his hands is a flag, also displaying the red-black colours of the Brazilian club. He poses for a photo proudly; displaying your home club colours at this legendary arena, whether through wearing a jersey or dotting stickers on surrounding lampposts, is a popular ritual. Shame about the Rossoneri colour scheme, mind.

The San Siro shop doesn’t beat around the bush. As soon as you set foot inside, the store splits into two and you’re presented with a decision; do you like red or blue with your black? For neutral tourists, it’s not an easy decision. For myself, it’s innate.

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On both sides of the store, there’s a few stairs leading down to a long window. Through this window is the turf itself, the Curva Nord towering over you to the left. For a wandering visitor outside of matchday this is the closest one can get to the interior of the Meazza without shelling out for the stadium tour.

Having purchased the minty fresh away shirt, I proceed to receive strange looks when stripping in public to wear it for a photo. But with my metro pass about to expire, it’s time to leave. The last glance at the stadium has the same effect as the first, and another array of realisations hit me.

“I need to come back ASAP. Wonder what it’s like on a matchday. But wait. They want to knock it down in a few years. Why? What’s wrong with it? How can you better it? How could you do that?”

Feeling satisfied yet slightly conflicted, I step back into the station.

The stadium doesn’t look as modern as Juventus’ Allianz Stadium . It does have a cold, heart-of-stone vibe to its exterior. The surrounding area is by no means glamorous. The facilities are not as hi-tech as those at, say, the new Tottenham ground. It’s not perfect.

But neither are we, and assuming that we can do better is far more risky than staying put. To not only move both clubs elsewhere but also knock down the San Siro in the process sets a precedent. It says that modern equals better. And yes, sometimes it is better. But this would most likely be the most high profile football stadium ever demolished. I’m not yet convinced that a new, ‘modern’ replacement is guaranteed to beat it. And until we are sure it can be beaten, maybe that day should be postponed.

Finally, the San Siro isn’t the only place in the country where you’ll find references to Inter Milan. Here’s a few more assorted observations about Inter from across the boot of Italy:

  • These kits are getting bloody expensive, man. 91 euros for the away kit. I must be mad.
  • Strangely, I didn’t see other people wearing a jersey for either Milan club whilst in the city, save for one young boy wearing a knock-off AC Milan home kit. See the previous observation for an explanation.
  • There’s a much larger Inter store in Milan than the one at the San Siro. If you’re looking for more than just the kit, that’s the best place for all your Nerazzurri needs. And you have the added bonus of not having to share the shop with our neighbours.
  • One of the most common Inter items found on sale in souvenir shops across Italy is a bobblehead of Icardi doing his signature hands-to-ears celebration. I’ll personally cover costs for anyone who fancies purchasing a load just to throw them away.
  • If you’re watching Juventus against Napoli in an Italian pub and you don’t speak much Italian, don’t tell people you’re an Interisti. Seriously. Not a good move on my part.
  • On the topic of Juve, someone please explain who on earth allowed them to open a huge club shop in Milan city centre.

The San Siro, Milan and Italy as a whole is paradise. Do try and visit if you haven’t yet had the chance.