Roberto Mancini’s side won 3-2 on penalties after the match at Wembley had finished 1-1 after extra time.
“We are happy to have given joy and hope to the Italians after such a difficult period,” Mancini told reporters as the team touched down in Rome on Monday, where they were greeted by some 200 fans chanting: “We’re the champions of Europe!”
No victory parade was expected given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, after a few hours at their hotel, the besuited squad attended a ceremony at the palace of President Sergio Mattarella, who himself had been at Wembley for Sunday’s match.
From Milan to Palermo, celebrations went late into the night after Sunday’s match.
In the heart of Rome, a concert of car horns and foghorns rang out amid a cloud of smoke from firecrackers.
At the final whistle, thousands of fans draped in Italian flags left fan zones installed near the Colosseum and Piazza del Popolo to converge on Piazza Venezia, at the foot of the monument to King Victor-Emmanuel II, father of Italian unification.
“Forza Italia! Campioni d’Europa!” roared the supporters: “Come on Italy, champions of Europe!”
The European football crown returns to Italy three years after the four-time world champions failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.
Chiellini on Monday dedicated the win to the Italian fans and former Italy and Fiorentina defender Davide Astori, who died aged 31 after suffering a cardiac arrest before an Italian league match in 2018.
Addressing the audience in the grounds of Mattarella’s Quirinale palace, he paid tribute to his teammates.
“We are not here because we scored an extra penalty, but because we believed in the values of friendship,” he said. “This success is a group victory. This bond made us feel like brothers of Italy to answer the call together.”
Few of the crowds at Sunday’s celebrations wore masks, which have not been mandatory outdoors in Italy since the end of June.
Discussions were held on whether or not to install a giant screen at the Stadio Olimpico, but the authorities, fearing an outbreak of the Delta variant, decided against the idea.
On paper, large gatherings were prohibited. But it was difficult, in reality, to prevent young and old from finally meeting after months of lockdown when they were deprived of social life.
Under the pines of Via dei Fori Imperiali, the police watched the procession of jubilant supporters.
Beyond the sporting performance, Italy wants to believe that the coronation as European champions will help the country definitively close the fatal chapter of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For fan Pierluigi de Amicis, “it’s a rescue, after a year and a half of pandemic, suffering, death”.
Greengrocer Matteo Falovo spoke for many when he said that after 17 months of the virus, which hit Italy hard, it had been “a pleasure to be able to think about something else”.
Corriere della Sera, Italy’s biggest selling newspaper, wrote on Sunday: “After the greatest post-war Italian tragedy, Italians are smiling again.”
“IT’S OURS! Football came home,” read the Corriere dello Sport.
“England beaten on penalties, Italy in the streets to celebrate the Cup.”
😍 Azzurri da impazzire a Wembley
🏆 Siamo Campioni d'Europaaaaaaaaaaa!
— Corriere dello Sport (@CorSport) July 12, 2021
Mancini’s men recovered from the shock of conceding the quickest goal ever in a European Championship final to equalise and held their nerve to claim a shootout victory after extra time failed to break the draw.
“We did well,” Mancini told RAI Sport. “We conceded a goal straight away and struggled, but then we dominated the game.
“The lads were wonderful, I don’t know what more to say. It’s important for all the people and all the fans.”