Sunday, May 16, 2010

Stage 9: Biking by Queen Amidala's Palace

I would like to thank Disney's Grand Californian for having speedy wi-fi, and for having Universal Sports on its cable lineup. I'm also very late to thank Universal Sports for airing every Giro stage live, so I can watch it in the morning before I go to work.

Tough stage today. Loved watching the sports director hanging out of the sunroof of the Saxobank team car shouting at stage winner Sorenson "Allez, allez, allez!"

Tomorrow's stage goes from Frosinone in the province of Lazio down into Campagna skirting Naples, Pompeii and Vesuvius to end in Cava de' Tirreni, which is above the Amalfi Coast. Should have some very challenging climbs, and hopefully the fog will lift so we can see some fantastic helicopter shots. The Giro will roll through Caserta, where in 1752 the Bourbon king of Naples built a palace to rival Versailles. It doubled for Queen Amidala's palace in the ill-fated Episodes 1, 2, and 3, which I refuse to rant about here. Also, it was a staircase in the Vatican in Mission Impossible III, and in Angels and Demons.

The real history of Rome and the Vatican is so much more interesting than Dan Brown even begins to suggest in that book. I'm reading this great biography of Lucrezia Borgia by Sarah Bradford. Picture this: the Pope's daughter by a previous mistress living with the Pope's current mistress in a fancy palazzo somewhere near the Vatican while all of the crowned heads of Europe send their ambassadors to shower the women with jewels and silks. Because they, above all others, have the ear of the Pope. Imagine the Pope deciding who gets to rule the Kingdom of Naples. All of this happened. Fantastic read! I'll talk more about it when there isn't so much cycling on TV....

So many kinds of food and drink to choose from inspired by tomorrow's Giro stage, but today I'm feeling the Limoncello from Sorrento, a little town on a spit of land reaching out across the bay of Naples toward the island of Capri. The lemons there are a specific variety and the soil is ancient volcanic earth--the gift of Vesuvius. The result is a thick-skinned lemon with an extremely flavorful peel. It only grow here. These lemons are special--they make the best Limoncello in the world. It's not too sweet, not too bitter. Put a bottle in your freezer and open it to sip on a summer's day. It's the essence of the Amalfi coast, the ultimate luxury vacation spot, where I believe Sophia Loren has a home.

To me this area brings to mind images of film stars of the sixties. White Capri pants, which I just can't own because they are so easy to stain, and I never avoid spilling stuff on them. Little gladiator sandals with a silk scarf and big Jackie O sunglasses. To me the Amalfi coast has a Burt Bacharach soundtrack with a Carol Bayer Sager lyric, sung by that girl with the guitar in Blake Edwards' "The Party."

You just have to see it before you die. The cliffs are a crumbly gray stone encrusted with green and almost look like they belong in a Chinese mountain painting. But the houses decorated with blue and yellow tile, the beaches, the men in loafers and woven shirts with complicated pastel stripes. The bougainvillea and wisteria climbing over endless staircases. The church domes with iridescent colorful tile patterns like exotic lizard skin.

What to eat there? Seafood. Above is a picture of a nice octopus salad with citrus. So yummy and refreshing.


Viva Italia! Viva il Giro!

A domani!

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