PEZ ROADSIDE Giro’13 St.5: Thursday’s stage 6 of the 2020 Giro d’Italia passes through the town of Pisticci. Back in 2013, ‘The Pez’ Richard Pestes was also in Pisticci, for a lot longer than he planned, due to the maze-like layout of old Italian towns. Here’s the story: “Sempre Dritto” – ‘always forward’ makes a good translation. When used correctly, it’s a sign of confidence, direction, and success, but these same watchwords can also lead you to places you never expected.
Interesting Fact About Mino #38 – He doesn’t eat lunch.
Day after day my ‘pilota’ Mino continues to amaze me as I get to know the man behind the wheel. I’ve already called us an “unstoppable force”, and seen Mino take care of things that would make Harvey Keitel’s character in Pulp Fiction envious, and I’ve marveled at how he keeps going hour after hour on these long days with not so much as a mid-day snack. I can make it till about 4:00PM before crashing hard – but he just rolls on through to dinner – which came as late as 10:30 one night. Then I noticed his breakfast ritual – which consists simply of a cappuccino and three croissants, followed by another cappuccino and three more croissants. Boom. Done. He’s set for 12 hours. I’ve no idea how he does it, but it works for him.
For his part, he’s been rolling his eyes whenever I grab a slice of pizza for lunch – he’s baffled at why I eat so much. No matter, he seems to be the perfect Tonto for my Lone Ranger – which of course makes him an excellent travel partner.
When in Italy – why not drive an Italian car? The Alfa Romeo Giulia was proving a worthy ride, and even more so today.
Now to today’s story, which is actually about an unexpected adventure we had yesterday. After the day’s start in Policastro Bussentino, our plan was to aim the car due east and not stop until we hit today’s finish town of Matera. I’d calculated this to save us anywhere from 3-6 hours of car time that would be better used for writing my report, catching up on some work, and maybe even getting a negroni before dinner.
The countryside down here is desolute – it’s dry, hot, there’s just not much rain – and not much grows here. It reminds me of the American west – and I’m sure they shot many a spaghetti-western here in the ‘60’s.
But we made some good time – targeting a 2:30 arrival in Matera. The Nokia had performed well today, and we bombed along an empty tiny country road past abandoned farms and the occasional olive grove.
I asked Mino what he thought?
“Sempre dritto” was his reply. He wheeled the car left and onto a tiny dirt track I hadn’t even seen. It appears this bridge has been out for some time, and also appears it’s going to be some more time before it’s fixed. Maybe that’s why hadn’t seen another car since we’d left the main highway many kms back.
Another thing I’ve appreciated about my driver is his complete willingness to ask for directions – so when we finally spotted an oncoming car, Mino didn’t hesitate to flag him down. “The turn for Pisticci is just up head” he said.
Onwards we drove – the road suddenly became paved (but only in in places) and we could now see that we’d eventually make it to the town gates – although some 20% grades need to be scaled first.
Inches to spare, but we’d done it. That was the skinniest street I’ve ever fit a car through. Then we slotted through another tight corner and the walls closed in again. And again I was out in front watching both fenders as Mino slipped through the even skinnier slot.
I should also mention that by now even my extremely chilled driver was starting to get ’nervosa’. I couldn’t blame him – but as the trip threw up each new obstacle to block our progress, we’d triumph. Keep going! I want to see what’s at that church perched way at the top of the hill…
What’s up here? It turns out not much, the ancient citadel is closed, and based on the amount of pigeon poop and the odd empty beer bottle, it doesn’t get many visitors. Photos were snapped, views across the land were appreciated – but of course I suggested a different route down where our car had absolutely no place being.
But we’d made it- the off course excursion had turned into a chance to see a place I’d never come to under normal circumstances. Even better – the car emerged unscathed – even after we got into a tricky spot where it tipped onto three wheels in a particularly tight turn.
It’s Wednesday in Matera and a massive thunder shower is threatening to flood out the stage finish – the final meters are literally under inches of running water right now – the race is 72km out and we’ll see what happens. But regardless the adventure continues.
– And I did get my negroni after all. It was so good, I had two.
Keep it dialed PEZ for all the real Giro action.
– ciao a domani