CREATED Jan. 9, 2014 by John Maino for The Maino Project on NBC26
Green Bay, WI -- It was a collection of the hardiest and most loyal of Packers fans at Lambeau this past week. Mixed in amongst the crowd, Italy's hardiest and most loyal. It's a long distance love affair that started about 20 years ago while visiting relatives in New York.
"They left me alone in front of the TV and said, 'Look, watch it,' and I couldn't understand anything. The rules, even the ball was weird. You know we have a round ball in Italy, and you have an oval here. I started to watch and then I loved it then, that's my love," said Giovanni Bartocci.
What was it about this team and its fans that caught his eye?
"I love when players jump in the crowd and it's freezing. Most of the crowd are the people without shirts and I was like, 'These people are crazy. I love it!"
Giovanni has since moved to New York City, but he stays in touch with a hardcore base of Packers fans back in Rome.
"I'm texting right now with a fan, a Green Bay Packers fan of Italy, and I'm sort of their reporter right now. They always say, 'I love you but I hate you, because you are there and we are in Italy, but please let us know.'"
His exuberance and determination took him to unusual heights a few years back. That's when he showed up to the Super Bowl without a ticket. Yet somehow, he made his way into the game and onto the field for the post game celebration.
"An Italian guardian angel helped me out to get into the stadium, and since I was in the stadium I played my magic, like 'Ciao Bella. Oh sorry. I'm with you know who. Oh sorry, I don't speak English,' and I ended up celebrating with them."
Now for those of us who think going to Italy would be pretty cool, Giovanni says we should appreciate what we have around us.
"I love Green Bay. The people are great. It's a very nice city and everyone is friendly, and I just love people from Wisconsin."