Italy‘s national sports teams and the colour blue have become synonymous over the years, and any fan of football or rugby would be able to tell you that the Italian National Teams are as commonly known by their nickname, Gli Azzurri. The same is true of basketball, volleyball, for individuals representing the country in athletics, and every other sport too.
As nice a nickname as it sounds, it’s not exactly one of the more imaginative of sporting nicknames, simply translating to: ‘the Blues’.
Of course, that nickname can appear a little different when National Women’s Teams and underage sides are taken into consideration. As you will no doubt hear during the summer’s 2023 Women’s World Cup, the Italy Women’s National team‘s nickname is the Azzurre, with it being the plural feminine noun, and underage sides are the Azzurrini, translating to the rather cute ‘little Blues’.
But the choice of blue is a curious one for teams and individuals representing Italy after further thought. Although it’s not a strict rule, national teams often wear colours from their country’s flag. In the green, white and red of the Italian tricolour, though, blue is nowhere to be seen.
So, why do Italy wear blue when it comes to sports?
The myths about Italy National Teams wearing blue
As with every curiosity or question, there are plenty of tales and myths about why Italy wear blue jerseys. It is made all the more intriguing when you consider that Italy’s first national teams wore white shirts, with touches of the Italian tricolour present in their design as well.
One of the most common myths about Italy’s change to blue shirts is that the colour was chosen as a tribute to Italy’s often blue skies and the country’s sublime blue seas, as detailed by Goal. That, though, just isn’t true, and wouldn’t accurately reflect how the millions of people living in the Pianura Padana – the Po Valley – in the north feel about their country.
Another often-cited reason for Italy wearing blue stems from a game against Hungary on January 6, 1911. The friendly match was played after heavy snowfall, and the story goes that Italy were not permitted to wear white as it would be hard for their players to stand out, and so blue was adopted as a random alternative colour. While it is true that Italy wore blue for the first time in that game in Milan, which they won 1-0, the snow is not the reason for the Azzurri coming to wear the colour that they are now so associated with.
A third myth about the choice of blue is that Italy decided to ‘take’ the blue from France’s flag, albeit in a slightly different shade. Again, though, there is no truth to this particular tale of them looking to get one over their transalpine rivals.
The historic reason why Italy National Teams wear blue
As fun as many of the myths can be, the reality is that there is no truth behind them, though they continue to pass from one generation to the next and are almost reinforced by their longevity.
In reality, the reason why Italy’s National Teams wear blue is tied to the Casa Savoia, or House of Savoy, which was a royal dynasty that grew to power in an Alpine region between what is now Italy and France. The colour blue represented the Casa Savoia, which reigned at the beginning of the last century, and since the 1300s. The Kingdom of Italy formally came to an end on June 12, 1946, becoming the Italian Republic.
The famous Savoy Blue derived from a reference to the Virgin Mary’s mantle, and from there it has made its way onto the colour that is most associated with Italy today.