For many supporters, watching their team play at Juventus Stadium is the ambition of a lifetime, and one small band of fans is working hard to enrich that experience and make a visit to Turin, Italy, truly unforgettable.
Founded by Maurizio, a native of the Piedmont city and a Bianconeri season-ticket holder, Around J is fast becoming the go-to page for international followers of the Old Lady, and it is easy to see why.
To explain more about the website, app and events they organise, he met with Bleacher Report at Juve’s training complex in Vinovo to discuss the group's aims and exactly what he wants to achieve.
The website and app provide all the relevant news supporters could want, filtering out the unreliable sources to ensure only the most credible stories are passed on around the world.
Supporters who use it have begun to contact Maurizio before travelling to Italy, and he is happy to help arrange accommodation and other details that relieve the pressure on visitors who have never been to the country before.
But it is on matchdays when Around J truly comes into its own, ensuring each visitor gets to live the Juventus experience just as those native fans on the Curva Sud do each and every Sunday.
As Maurizio explained in the video above, the group meets outside the ground before matches, visitors gathering to swap stories of their backgrounds, with many games seeing fans from each continent joining together.
The postgame arrangements are made during this time too, before everyone heads into the stadium to watch the match and enjoy the incredible atmosphere Juventus have created at a ground that only opened in 2011.
Returning to the same spot in the shadow of the stadium after the final whistle, Maurizio then takes fans to a variety of restaurants for dinner, the location often depending on the number of visitors.
To show these travelling supporters locally sourced and traditional food is fantastic, with a hidden pizzeria close to the city centre proving to be a particular favourite. Known as Manhattan Pub, their giant freshly baked pizzas are always a hit, and it is the kind of place foreigners likely would not discover without a local guide.
Yet as he hinted in the video, the UEFA Champions League sees Maurizio and Around J raise their game even higher, the most prestigious matches prompting them to deliver their best experiences to honoured guests.
One such occasion was before the knockout clash with Bayern Munich back in February, when YouTube football channel Copa90 decided to tag along and see just what was on offer. A trip to nearby Valle d’Aosta promptly followed, with an early lunch at a local bar situated at the foot of the breathtaking mountains.
The best was yet to come, however, as the group then took a cable car to 10,000 feet, absorbing some breathtaking scenery along the way before enjoying some more local cuisine as skiers and snowboarders slid by the windows.
Then, with some simply stunning mountain views providing the most picturesque of backdrops, Copa90 and Around J went head-to-head on the pitch for a five-a-side game in the snow that the hosts won.
It was all in good fun, but those who took part will never forget the memories and friendships made that day, something that is a hallmark of what Maurizio and his colleagues deliver every week.
Max, a lifelong fan from Serbia, was there that day and happily discussed his experience with Bleacher Report.
“On Champions League day, we went to the mountains, had lunch and played football in the snow, far up in the Alps,” he recounted. “It was an entire day of laughter, good energy and a perfect buildup for a huge game in the evening. Having the chance to talk to people from England, Australia, the U.S., Poland, Finland, et cetera and share passion and love for Juve was absolutely priceless.”
He is far from the only one, the “Visit Turin” section of Around J's website is filled with similar testimonials from supporters who joined the group from Canada, Singapore, Australia and Indonesia, among others. It's a truly global community.
“We are always here to help fans learn more about Juventus, to enjoy Turin and make sure they have fun,” Maurizio explained, and he clearly enjoys being able to deliver on that promise, welcoming as many fans as possible whenever they do decide to attend an Around J event.
The group has certainly made a good impression on the wider football community, with Copa90’s reporters clearly taken aback by what they witnessed on that aforementioned visit to Turin and the surrounding area.
“When our road trip rolled into Turin, a group of Juventus fans we met perfectly crystallised what it meant to be a football fan,” Albert Rosete of Copa90 explained. “After meeting through international Juventus Twitter fan page @AroundJFans, those we met had bonded over their shared (and borderline obsessive) love of their team, Juventus. Whether they were from Serbia or the U.S., they had one thing in common and, luckily for us, were keen for a kickabout!”
Providing a trusted hotel, helping foreign visitors avoid the many pitfalls associated with visiting Italy and generally making any trip run smoothly would be enough for most, but Maurizio and his team go over and above that task.
Meeting up with Around J has allowed many fans to see just what Juventus means to the city of Turin and its inhabitants while also showing them parts of the city unlikely to appear in any guidebook.
Talking with Maurizio, it is clear he has only just begun, and that can only be good news for supporters of Juventus who plan to join up with Around J in the future.