Giro di PEZ: Desperately Seeking Sicilia
Attenzione Italian bar tenders with your Negronis and pretty ladies for Daily Distractions everywhere – The PEZ himself is on the ground in Italy and currently en route to Naples for today’s Giro presentation. He’s reported in that all has started well, luggage, bike and PEZ are all in the same place and he even has a driver all lined up. This Giro di PEZ is not going to be like last time in the South in ’08 where it all started pear shaped….
It’s my first time to the south of Italia and the Giro grande partenza – and I’ve landed in Palermo in one piece, but without my luggage or bike… But the sun is shining, this place is beautiful, and as I search for the perfect negroni, I hope to learn a lot more about this unique part of the world – let’s get started!
What struck me most as I got into the cab on Monday morning and waved to my daughter as she stood on the couch and waved back from our living room window, was how mixed my were my feelings at leaving home for this next great adventure. Alessa is now 2 and a half, and since my Giro trip last year she’s transformed into a shining little person with questions, opinions and a real personality.
“Where’s Daddy?” At a bike race…
She misses her mommy and daddy, even when we leave for just a few hours during the day, and this trip will be my longest separation where she’ll be wondering “where’s daddy..?” Last year was no big deal as she was still too young to really get that I was gone for 2 whole weeks, and it’s only been since then that a true bond has grown between us… I now know exactly what he phrase “daddy’s little girl” really means.
On the other hand – I’m setting off to explore a new part of the world, chase my favorite Grand Tour, and live the life I so long dreamed about in the days B.P. (before Pez). It’s my first trip to Sicily (a rather tricky word to spell out on the keyboard…), and my excitement to see it has been on a constant burn since the Giro route was announced in December. Mrs. Pez’s own bloodlines hail from Calabria, where stages 4 & 5 will run, I’ve spent hours planning my daily itinerary, which rides I can do and still make it to the press room in time for the finish, the logistics of chasing the first 7 stages of the race with minimal time spent trapped in the car, sourcing hotels with reliable internet that don’t cost a bundle, choosing overnight towns, pouring over the maps plotting the fastest route for each leg of the journey.
Palermo is a true Italian mix of restored beauty and work in progress.
The next two weeks will be packed with memories as the Giro once again looks like a wide open battle royale to claim its top prize. Astana’s last minute invite is worthy of a chapeau to the RCS and can only make the race better. I can only imagine how fired up to win races Bruyneel’s boys must be given their snubbing by the ASO. PEZ-Man Alessandro last year strongly urged me to take in the start of this great race – to experience the tifosi, the terrain, and the tangible ‘passione’ that exudes from Italian race fans in the south. At first I couldn’t imagine missing the always thrilling and mountainous final week, but I admit that has all changed as I look forward to the sunshine, racing, riding, and meeting the Italians of the south.
The streets can at anytime be empty, or crammed full width with traffic. At least they don’t waste money painting traffic lanes here.
As always, the experience is like a video game- so much happening in such a short time – life speeds up and slows down at the same time, the adrenaline will hit new peaks as I crank out stories from the press rooms… I could go on – but most of by now know what to expect as we offer up our own brand of race coverage here at PEZ, so I’ll just get on with it….
Since I wrote part uno on the airplane down here, the adventure has taken some unexpected twists… “factor X” reared its ugly head as Air Canada lost my luggage – both suitcase and bike – and it’s now Wednesday afternoon and neither has shown up, although I’m told they found one of the items somewhere… but don’t know which one just yet.
So I spent this morning buying up some essentials – an Italian mobile phone to avoid the unreal charges of using my mobile from back home, a card reader so at least I could get you the pics you’re seeing here, and some fresh ‘mutandis’ (underwear).
”Whatsa matta you – why’d you go and hit me for…?”
I finally set foot on this island after about 24 hours of travel time, and wondered how bad the famed Palermo traffic would be as I pulled the rental car onto the autostrada. It took only 15 minutes to spot my first fender-bender, followed shortly after by missing my turn off and realizing I was soon to be lost. Undaunted, I gambled on an exit and plunged into Palermo centro with both hands on the wheel, my foot on the gas, and my other foot on the brake (just in case).
Did you hear the one about the Italian team’s attempt to conquer Everest? They were doing great, but had to stop at 20,000 feet when they ran out of scaffolding.
I arrived at my digs not long after, the B&B San Gabriele, to discover the sea view from my room had been replaced by scaffolding. It seems whoever controls the scaffold rentals here is doing very well, as at least half the old city is covered in the stuff… I imagine the restored city is gonna look darn nice when it’s done…
Not the perfect negroni.
Last night I made the most of the situation and started my search for the perfect negroni – that classic Italian cocktail made with gin, campari, and sweet vermouth. At a nearby trattoria I was unfortunately met with disappointment. The local barista produced a concoction heavy in the gin and light on everything else. Back it went for a rebuild. I was impressed, though, when he actually came to the table to ask if his negroni.v2 was to my liking (it was), and true to Italian form he insisted his first pour was made with the correct recipe when I asked about his measurements.
But the pizza was spot on.
The kitchen did produce one of the best pizzas con prosciutto and funghi I’ve ever had – with thick slices of the fresh ingredients, a very tasty tomato sauce, and the kind of thin crust you only find here.
I saw the first signs of the Giro arrive today and will later pickup the creds. The sun is shining, it’s in the warm but not too hot, and perfect for a bike race. Next steps are trying to get my luggage – and hopefully riding tomorrow.
In the meantime, I’ll devote some more time tonite to finding that perfect negroni…
Ciao – a domani- !