Genoa vs Sampdoria history: Why is it called the Derby della Lanterna?

The Derby della Lanterna is one of the best occasions in Italian football. But how did it come to be, and what's the story behind the name?


While the cross-city rivalries in Milan, Rome and Turin receive more media attention at times, with those clubs often battling at the top of the Serie A table, some forget the derby that legendary Italian coach Marcello Lippi once called the Derby della Lanterna ‘the most special in Italy’.

Not having both Genoa and Sampdoria in the top flight does have an impact, as is the case for 2022/23 – the Grifone are battling it out for an immediate return to Serie A and with the Blucerchiati expected to pass them on their way to Serie B, extending the absence of the fixture for another year at least.

Genoa is the peninsula’s oldest club, formed in 1893, and Sampdoria was born through a merger of Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria in 1946. So, this is a conflict built on a young upstart who sought to steal the crown of their more decorated neighbours and from right under their noses, after immediately hosting fixtures at what was formerly the Grifone’s Stadio Luigi Ferraris on formation.

Why is the Genoa Derby called the Derby della Lanterna?

With its prime position along the Italian riviera, the port of Genoa was key in connecting Italy to the rest of Europe and ultimately gave birth to football across the country through those that passed through the famous harbour.

When you look out onto the port from one of the many hilltop viewpoints on the coast, you will see the ancient Torre dell Lanterna landmark and lighthouse that safely guided vessels in to dock for decades. Still attracting thousands of tourists today, it became the obvious moniker for this historic fixture.

Sampdoria’s Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Marassi. (@sampdoria_en)

Relegation deciders

With Sampdoria’s solitary Scudetto coming in 1990/91 and Genoa‘s heyday during the early 1920s long forgotten, the fixture has become more significant for its impact on the other end of the Serie A table. That was the case in 2021/22 when Grifone captain Domenico Criscito saw Blucerchiati goalkeeper Emil Audero deny him from the penalty spot and all but end their chances of survival.

In April 1951, Sampdoria had relegated Genoa with a 3-2 victory secured through an 88th-minute winner from Mario Sabbatella, and it took the Rossoblu 26 years to return the favour. After inflicting a 2-1 defeat on Samp towards the end of the 1976/77 season, Genoa lost to their relegation rivals Bologna and Foggia to help condemn Sampdoria to Serie B.


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