Homesick holders turn base into Little Italy

IRENE, South Africa, June 13 (Reuters) - World champions Italy have made their South African World Cup base a real home from home thanks to a plentiful supply of pizza, pasta, prosecco and even Italian plug sockets.

Italians are famous for being homesick and a visit to Casa Azzurri (Home of the Blues) south of Pretoria is like taking a trip to Rome or Milan.

"We've tried to make it as much like Italy as possible so people feel at home," Vincenzo Santoro, one of a raft of Italian barmen flown over specially, told Reuters.

A student college, up the road from the exclusive team hotel, has been turned blue for the tournament as Italy make themselves comfortable and try to promote their produce and country as a tourist destination to South African passers-by.

Team officials, corporate sponsors and journalists are plied with the best Tuscan wine and the menu offers only Italian classics.

Photographs of famous Italian landmarks and Azzurri successes on the field are plastered all over the walls while videos of Italy greats like Roberto Baggio talking about the team are on a constant loop.

There are even Subbuteo games tables supplied by the Italian Subbuteo federation, and table football tables brought from home by the Italian table football association.

Italians who are not able to make it to Cape Town for Italy's Group F opener against Paraguay on Monday will also be able to watch the match on a giant screen at Casa Azzurri, where the spumante will be flowing freely win or lose.