Which are the 10 most popular sports in Italy? A look at the Italian sports culture

Which are the 10 most popular sports in Italy? A look at the Italian sports culture

Claudia Kogi
updated at October 1, 2023 at 1:08 PM

Most sports in Italy have a long traditional history that the country holds dear. Throughout the years, the nation has been among the top European giants in setting the pace for various sports, such as soccer and in doing so, it has taken home four FIFA World Cup victories. With a strong and dynamic culture in different sports, the nation has produced some of the greatest athletes on the planet.

Major sports in Italy
A bicycle racing cyclist is seen on an asphalt road curve. Photo: Ilbusca (Modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

The country's passion and devotion to sports are among the reasons it performs better in international competitions. The nation has achieved international stardom by participating in numerous competitions, such as the Olympics. So, what are some famous sports in Italy?

Top 10 sports in Italy

It is without a doubt that Italy is the birthplace of some of the most popular and exciting sports in the world. According to various online sources, here is a list of Italy's top 10 most popular sports.

10. Water Polo

  • Year incepted: Early 1900s
  • Famous legend(s): Maurizio Felugo

Water Polo is one of the most popular traditional sports in Italy, with a long-standing background dating back to the 1900s. The country has been successful on the international stage on various occasions while participating in the sport.

The famous sport demands respect, admiration, swimming talent, tactical gaming, and collaboration. The top-tier league in Italy, the Serie A1 Water Polo League, provides heated rivalries and outstanding matchups between various teams.

Water polo teams from Italy have won multiple Olympic and World Championship titles and are undeniably crucial in the nation, with generations of sportsmen making their mark globally.

9. Swimming

Traditional sports in Italy
Athletes start the swim section during the IRONMAN Italy Emilia Romagna on 16 September 2023 in Cervia, Italy. Photo: Joosep Martinson
Source: Getty Images
  • Year incepted: Early 1900s
  • Famous legend(s): Federica Pellegrini

Swimming is among the famous water sports in Italy, which is considered a recreational activity and a competitive sport. It has quite a huge fan base since its strikes and athleticism have enticed national and international audiences.

The biennial Sette Colli Trophy swimming competition attracts international interest and highlights top Italian talent. Federica Pellegrini, an accomplished Italian swimmer, has multiple world records and Olympic medals.

The country's swimming culture spurs the growth of fresh stars that continue to impact the sport, thanks to its extensive coastline and excellent indoor facilities.

8. Athletics

  • Year incepted: Ancient Times
  • Famous legend(s): Pietro Mennea

Athletics has produced some of the greatest legends in the country and is thus, without a doubt, one of the most popular sports in Italy. It has a long historical background of putting the country on the map during the world and Olympic championships.

Sprinter Pietro Mennea, who held the 200-meter dash world record for over seventeen years, is a prime example of the nation's athletic success. However, athletes continue to make an impact at the competition due to a vibrant sports culture and a successful past.

Water sports in Italy
Alessandro Fusco of Italy during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match against Uruguay at Stade de Nice on 20 September 2023 in Nice, France. Photo: Michael Steele
Source: Getty Images

7. Rugby Union

  • Year incepted: Early 1900s
  • Famous legend(s): Sergio Parisse

Rugby is among the most popular sports in Italy, which has gained an enormous fan base over the past few years. The nation's top rugby leagues display its quality with ardent supporters supporting their local clubs.

Legendary Italian rugby player Sergio Parisse plays for the country's national squad in the coveted Six Nations Championship.

6. Cycling

  • Year incepted: Early 1900s
  • Famous legend(s): Fausto Coppi

Cycling is among the most famous traditional sports in Italy that rose to fame following the country's landscape, which allowed it to produce legendary athletes in the sport and hold prestigious competitions.

The Giro d'Italia, Italy's most important cycling competition, unites the country as cyclists face rugged terrain for three weeks.

5. Formula One

  • Year incepted: 1950s
  • Famous legend(s): Alberto Ascari
Most popular sports in Italy
Formular 1 drivers during the Italian Grand Prix at Monza Circuit on 3 September 2023 in Monza, Italy. Photo: Michael Potts
Source: Getty Images

Formula One Racing not only holds a special place in the nation's heart but is also one of the major sports in Italy. Over the past decades, F1 has grown, and currently, it has a huge fan base of motorsport enthusiasts.

Every year, fans anticipate the Italian Grand Prix, which is held at the famed Monza track. Two-time world champion Alberto Ascari is still revered in the annals of Italian auto racing, displaying a strong passion for speed and engineering prowess.

4. Tennis

  • Year incepted: Early 1900s
  • Famous legend(s): Fabio Fognini

Tennis came to the country as early as the 1900s and is now among the common sports in Italy. The nation's tennis is all about passion, style, power and grace and, with its rich history, has made a strong impression on the world's platform.

Top tennis players meet at the coveted ATP and WTA championship, the Italian Open, on Rome's red clay to showcase their talents.

3. Volleyball

  • Year incepted: 1930s
  • Famous legend(s): Ivan Zaytsev

Italian volleyball is known for its exceptional technical ability and tactical discipline, which have given the sport a soft place in the hearts of its supporters. One of the top volleyball leagues in the world is the Italian Men's Volleyball League, which includes 12 elite clubs.

Top 10 sports in Italy
Italian volleyball players during FIVB Volleyball Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament against Germany in Lodz, Poland on 23 September 2023. Photo: Andrzej Iwanczuk
Source: Getty Images

The country has achieved significant international success by winning multiple gold medals in competitions.

2. Basketball

  • Year incepted: 1920s
  • Famous legend(s): Danilo Gallinari

Introduced in the country during the 1920s, Basketball has grown to be one of the major sports in Italy. The best basketball players in Italy compete in the Lega Basket Serie A (LBA), the country's highest competition.

The league is renowned for its intense crowds and fierce games that have been ingrained in the national athletic culture and have seen the nation compete in local and international championships.

1. Soccer

  • Year incepted: Late 1800s
  • Famous legend(s): Francesco Totti

Since its introduction in the late 1800s, soccer has been the most popular sport in Italy. It has grown immensely, and due to its culture, the love for the sport runs deep. The country has achieved a significant milestone in the sports arena by bagging four World Cup titles.

The top-tier football league in Italy, Serie A, is recognized for its brilliant tactical play and fervent fan support. Soccer history has inscribed the names of teams like AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Juventus.

Italy's national sport

What are some famous sports in Italy?
Torino FC players celebrate after scoring during the Serie A TIM match against AS Roma at Stadio Olimpico di Torino on 24 September 2023 in Turin, Italy. Photo: Jonathan Moscrop
Source: Getty Images

The nation's national sport is soccer, and due to its love, talent and discipline, the country has bagged four World Cup victories.

What Olympic sport is Italy known for?

The nation has succeeded in various sports, taking home 258 gold and 758 overall Olympic medals. However, cycling and fencing have frequently been the two strongest sports in the Olympic competitions.

Sports in Italy is a way of life. Since the nation has established a name in aquatic, winter, contact, no-contact, and combat sports, it does not come as a surprise that Italian athletes continue to amaze and captivate the world with their talent and commitment.

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Claudia Kogi photo
Claudia Kogi
Claudia Kogi is a Kenyan content creator with over 3 years of experience. Claudia joined Sportsbrief.com as a writer in January 2022, covering sports and relatable content.