Marco Bortolami returned to his native Italy in the summer when he signed for new Italian franchise Aironi and the former Azzurri captain believes a lot has changed on the domestic scene in his homeland.
Bortolami left the club game in Italy six years ago, moving to Narbonne from his home-town club of Padova. After spending two years in France, the now 30-year-old moved to Gloucester were he spent the last four seasons and became a supporters favourite in the west country.
On the field he received rave reviews for his powering performances and the leadership qualities which earned him the Italian captaincy aged just 20, were also noticed at Kingsholm when he was handed the skipper’s armband at in just his second season.
Bortolami has enjoyed his time away but believes the time was right to return to Italy.
“I signed very early last season for Aironi as I wanted a new challenge,” said Bortolami.
“There were a few reasons behind the decision, the big appeal was the fact that two Italian teams were playing in the Magners League. It’s a big adventure and it’s a historical moment for Italian rugby.
“Aironi offered me a contract really early and they really wanted me and I jumped at the chance.
“From a family point of view, we had been in France for two years and then in England for four so it was right to come home. We now have a young family we wanted to be back in Italy.”
“Things have really changed since my Padova days.
“I didn’t expect to find everything the same but there is a big difference from England to Italy. We are definitely doing things the Italian way.”
Aironi impressed in their last Magners League outting against Edinburgh
Aironi are still to register a victory this season and travel to Newport on the weekend to face the Dragons, who sit just one place above them in the Magners League table.
Their compatriots Benetton Treviso have hit the ground running in the competition this season, with three victories already, including the scalp of last season’s Grand Finalists Leinster.
Bortolami has faith in his newly formed team and believes they just need more time together to put things rugby.
“We are moving in the right direction but it will take time, we are a new team with new players,” he added.
“We have some very experienced players, who I know well from the Italy set up and we have some younger players but there is a good mix.
“Some of the younger guys just need some time to understand where we are and the level of the competition but we are getting there.”
“The media attention around the team is very different and it is growing and the atmosphere around the sport is increasing.”
“Supporters are now coming out in numbers to watch high level rugby games, which is raising the profile of rugby.
“On a personal note, I want to continue playing at the top level, play well for Aironi and go to the world cup with Italy next year.”