Have You Got A Tan Line?
A proper cycling tan line can be rather useful for the most exciting and sweaty press trip in Italy, Giro E in the Enit (Italian national tourist board) team, from the 8th to the 30th May, along the Italian peninsula. Why? Because if you are invited – like I was last week – it’ll be a big honour, but you’ll also need to have some cycling experience.
The Enit team is changing every 2 or 3 days (apart from the captain, Max Lelli, who is an ex pro and stays for the whole Giro E), and journalists, bloggers, influencers and well known personalities get invited to cycle for some stages, along the same route of Corsa Rosa. The spirit is of fun and camaraderie. But when I lifted my teammates sleeves…I realised I was the only one without a deep tan line!
Racing on E-bikes Along the Routes of Corsa Rosa
That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the event: the Enit bunch made me feel part of their family, and the Giro E is spectacular from every point of view.
Imagine a whirlwind of gorgeous locations – they change every year and, as soon as you’re soaking in the beauty of one, a new one comes up and beats it. Add the fact that you rub shoulders with champions and can see the arrival of professionals from the private hospitality area. Finally, you will experience the finish line yourself, every day.
The start of Giro E is two hours before Giro D’Italia, so basically it’s like being the opening act at a Rolling Stones concert: the audience is already there, cheering you up while waiting for the real stars. Entire families have a pic nic, sit on terraces, make videos and encourage bikers. Local associations, police and Carabinieri escort you. What a feeling! And wearing the Enit cycling kit, with “Italia” written allover your body… does feel much better than wearing any other brand, and makes you very proud.
Emotions – the big bonus of Giro E. The finish line, for example: different every day and heart warming every single time, it can give you tears. Or discovering more about your team: you think your driver is simply a driver, and then you find out he has won 32 Gran Fondo (Roberto Moretti). Or watching bike mechanics get goosebumps when they have to fix bikes to champions like Francesco Moser, Moreno Argentin or Alessandro Ballan , who also join the race for a day. Or dancing on stage during the team anthem, every time you start in a new village or city, laughing and behaving like a school child. Or being helped and pushed (literally) by the captain, Max Lelli, or by the best mechanic in the world, Giacomino Daviddi, who works on bikes at the speed of a Formula 1 pit stop and always has a sweet word of encouragement for you. Or observing the rest of the team – Francesca, Sara, Matilde and again Francesca, who are normally coordinating everything from the office, move boxes around, drive the van and do everything that needs to be done, while treating guests like kings. Or watching Alberta Schiatti, who is in charge of social media, cycling with a smile on her face, and tweeting as soon as she gets off her bike. Finally, listening to the Direttore, Giovanni Bastianelli, moderating the event on the new Visit Italy webradio. Everybody has a surprising side. And I do miss them while writing this blogpost.
The Road Book
In the three days at the Giro E, I was in the Emilia-Romagna and Marche regions. The GiroE Road Book is like a box of chocolates: everybody looks at it anticipating the new locations to visit, their gastronomy, most famous places and history.
My first day (Stage 4)
Emilia Romagna region: from Polinago to Sestola, two villages I had never visited before. I arrived in Polinago on a sunny day and saw the snowy peaks of Monte Cimone, where Alberto Tomba used to ski. This area really is outdoor sports paradise. Several trails in Val Rossenna are perfect for hiking, biking, running and snow shoeing in winter. Horse riding tours are offered too.
The stage was very challenging, with hard uphills, rain and cold. But our captain won it, and brought the team to the top position in the chart.
We arrived in Sestola cold and tired. Dinner was obviously lovely. Among the local delicacies are crescentine, a type of bread once cooked in terracotta stone discs, and ciacci emiliani, a kind of pancake made of different types of flour, including chestnut flour.
Sestola is situated in a park, Parco del Frignano, and dominated by the Cimone mountain, the most famous winter location in the region. It’s nicknamed “the green pearl of Appennini“. My teammate Alberta noted that here, the Appennini mountains almost look like Alps. A Fortress and the Esperia botanical gardens are also important local landmarks.
My second day (Stage 5)
Emilia Romagna region: from Faenza to Cattolica.
This stage was flat and enjoyed a much better weather, even though dark clouds were always mixing with the sun. I knew this area better and had already done a 100 km run finishing in Faenza. But the team Enit was so fast for my abilities (reaching 45 km per hour, at times)! I loved passing the elegant landscape of soft green hills and the Rimini beach.
More about Faenza: the location is worldwide famous for it ceramics. Landmarks include a Town Hall, the Cathedral, the Masini Theatre (member of the European Route of Historical Theatres) and the Municipal Art Gallery.The Vespa Club Faenza boasts super cute old Vespa scooters, and modern and sustainable transport is also present, with free electric shuttles connecting town centre with parking lots, and bikes/e-bikes sharing service to complete the offer.
Cattolica attracts young people, families, and Italians and foreign tourism alike. It has the biggest Aquarium of the Adriatic coast, and other points of interests include the S. Apollinaire Church, and the Regina Museum. Among its traditional dishes are strozzapreti pasta, tagliatelle and, of course, piadina. A perfect dinner after a long day.
My third day (Stage 6)
Marche Region: from Castelsantangelo sul Nera to Ascoli Piceno. Another very difficult stage, all ups and downs and not one meter flat.
This tiny borgo in the heart of the Sibillini Mountains National Park, perched on a steep rock and surrounded by nature, houses 248 inhabitants.
It has a triangular historical centre surrounded by city walls with 5 openings to access the inner part. Its original decorations, frescoes and its watch tower remain intact, even though, in 2016, a terrible earthquake destroyed many parts of it. Some houses are still being rebuilt, so I felt it was a privilege to give this small village some visibility through the tour. I also found out that Castelsantangelo sul Nera supports environmental education and scientific research with its Deer Ecomuseum and Faunal Ecocentre, and has five ski runs and two chairlifts that give access to all the trails of Monte Prata. It’s one of those less known places in Italy that really surprises you.
A culinary delicacy I can’t forget is ciauscolo, an incredibly soft type of salami that seems to melt in your mouth. It was the star of the evening among bikers…Lucio, one of our drivers, said it tasted like vanilla.
And what about Ascoli Piceno? The city of 100 towers was founded 1’600 years ahead of Rome by the Picentes. The stunning Piazza del Popolo is its main attraction and one of the most beautiful in Italy. Its main buildings in the square represent the three major powers: politics (Palazzo dei Capitani del Popolo), religion (Church of San Francesco) and trade (Loggia dei Mercanti). Shame I didn’t have the time to enjoy a drink at sunset, there, like locals to.
A short mention about its cuisine also can’t be missed. As our road book explains, one of the typical recipe here is mastazzola, traditional cookies made with mulled red wine and black pepper, to enjoy paired with zibibbo wine.
Giro E is obviously a great way to learn about e-biking, and to try the best and latest models. This year we were given glorious Bianchi e-bikes, which really look quite stylish, so people were very intrigued by them and kept asking questions during breaks. The bike’s engine assists you up to 25 km/h, so anything faster means you’re pedalling yourself. And if Max Lelli is your captain, that will happen quite regularly!
Bottom line: don’t think the bike is doing most of the work for you, this is not a scooter.
Italy Sees Pink (and Violet)
For me Giro d’Italia, whose pink jersey just turned 90, and Giro E, with its modern concept and violet logo, are the symbol of the Italian rebirth. Old and new go harmoniously together. People go back to the streets, but respecting rules. And Italy thinks in colour, organising such a big event just before the country official re-opening, in a bold and optimistic move that I honestly didn’t expect.
It might sound obvious, but cycling is a fantastic way to travel and enjoy Italy. It’s not too slow, like hiking, and it’s not too fast like driving (or flying in a plane). It gives you time. It gives you good moods. It allows you to watch incredible locations, stop, eat, take photos, inhale scents, breath fresh air, and enjoy even more intensely all the things you were craving for.
I spent three days smiling – Enit really does it better. If you want to hear about the GiroE, go to Visit Italy Webradio. Enjoy!