The final whistle prompted fans to pour into Piazza Venezia to share their joy with their countrymen.

"It's been a match of intense suffering but we've won it now, and everything's great," shouted waiter Carlo Dilizio, 47, as fireworks lit up the night sky.

"I bought an Italian flag in 1982 (the last time Italy won the World Cup) and I took it out of the drawer the other day to show my son. And I said, let's write 2006 on it, and hope," he added.
  
An Italian TV commentator declared that watching the tense match had caused great suffering: "soffertissimo!"

"I don't believe it. It's a fairytale, it's just great to win after suffering so much. It's magnifico!" bayed 29-year-old Chiara who had been watching the match with more than 150,000 others at the ancient Circus Maximus.

Italians celebrate amongst their
landmarks

"It's the most beautiful emotion of my whole life, we're the world champions," shouted Giovanni, 23.

Some found the prolonged match tough going.

"If Zidane scores another goal I'm jumping in the river, I swear," said Francesco Pignolo, 30, watching with friends on the banks of the Tiber.

Non-football fans also enjoyed the moment as they strolled the normally crowded streets during the match in blissful isolation.

"It's been really amazing not having any cars or anything," said Sophie Alidina, of England.