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Traveling To Experience Culture? Try Attending Foreign Sports

Nove foto de Firenze
Summertime in Florence brings the annual calcio fiorentino, an old style of Italian game that's part boxing, part rugby, and part American football.

Travelers to places outside the United States go for any number of reasons: To see a new culture, meet different people, speak another language, or even blend in to a new place far from home. Our travel expert Matthew Brumley says in most countries, there’s a way to do all of those things at once: Go to a sporting event.

Here are three of Brumley’s favorites:

1. Football In Florence: The Calcio Fiorentino (Florentine football) is an early form of football that originated in the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence, Italy.

“There’s 27 people on each team,” Brumley said. “It goes on all day. It is a violent game,” and an amazing piece of Italian culture to witness.

Think of it as a combination of boxing, rugby and American football. It takes place the third week in June.

2. Soccer In South America: Soccer has a fanatical following around the globe. Brumley says he particularly enjoys watching Chile play Bolivia.

“I thought we got wild at a Seahawks game,” Brumley said, “but their 12th Man is just as loud and rowdy as ours.”

3. Baseball In Cuba: You’ll find national culture on full display inside a baseball stadium. At the game Brumley attended (Matanzas vs. Industriales), the Cuban Five – jailed as spies in the United States and recently released from prison – were in attendance, and seated in the VIP box.

“It was interesting to see the game stop, and the players came by and shook the hands and paid their respects to one of the gentlemen,” Brumley said.

Even the signs offer indications of Cuba’s mixed messages and changing culture.

“There’s this giant sign with these socialist slogans reading: ‘Through sports we will reach the socialist utopia.’ And right behind that is a giant Coca-Cola logo that’s from the 1950s,” Brumley said.

And in case you’re wondering, Matanzas won.


Going Places is KPLU's travel segment, covering everything about getting from Point A to Point B. Each week, travel expert and Earthbound Expeditions founder Matthew Brumley takes listeners through great destinations and insider travel tips.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.