Friday, May 28, 2010

Stage 19: Passo di Mortirolo

Today is the first of two outrageously difficult mountain stages, which are both famous in Giro history. As I turned on the TV this morning, I saw narrow mountain roads, barely paved, with thick green forest all around, and cyclists in their bright kit rapidly descending. Another beautiful stage, but so different from yesterday! Today and tomorrow are like a one-two punch, and many riders will be knocked out, and the real winner will emerge. Today's stage finishes in a minor ski resort town, hence the picture above.

Watching it in Italian today, because even though I can barely understand what they are saying, they really know what they are talking about, and they are so excited! Sorry, Universal Sports, but your commentators are looking a bit tired and burned out. But the Italian commentators know they are watching the moments of truth, finally, and they are ready for fireworks!

Wow, looks like it could be Ivan Basso, aka The Smiling Assassin, as the Italian press have dubbed him. He looks good. So does Stefano Garzelli, he whose eyebrows are more nicely waxed and sculpted than mine will ever be. And a father of 3. Only the Italians would put the leader of the hardest race in the world in an entirely pink outfit. They have nothing to prove, having minted their own brand of machismo. Maybe they invented it with Romulus and Remus. Or maybe it was those guys in the 300 movie.

At any rate, while I was looking around the internet this morning to find interesting food and drink from this stage's area, I found this cute site for an agriturismo near Lake Como. Humble little farmhouse where they cook for you and serve organic wine. The menu looks amazing, the rooms humble but comfortable. And they have a sweet-looking dog. This is the kind of travel I am coming to love in Italy. Yes, it's easier for me to do it, because I have some halting Italian and understand it well enough to get by, but even if you only speak English, you must have the experience of the real Italian hospitality. The kindness, the generosity of spirit is just exquisite. And the home-cooked food is better than in any restaurant. The pride in Mamma's cooking is unbelievable, and well-deserved.

In Poggio Bustone we got to try a home-made digestivo or after-dinner drink made with gentian root and some other herbs. It came after a 3-course meal that included pasta, meat and an antipasto, all served with home-made unfiltered white wine. The tomato sauce had such delicate flavor, and the hand-made pasta was springy and just chewy enough. This meal was prepared in the fly by someone's Mom. It was delicious. The place had the red and white checkered table cloth that used to be the cliche of New York Italian restaurants. The chairs were plastic garden furniture. The chef also made jams, jellies and jarred pickles. She came out and spoke to us and introduced us to her son and daughter and grand-daughter. Such genuinely welcoming folks!

So as the lions of Italian cycling, Basso, Scarponi, Garzelli and Nibali, turn themselves inside-out climbing mountains, I'm thinking of reason #1 to love Italy—the people.

Forza Italia!

A domani!

Check out the site: Agriturismo Al-Marnich

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