Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Covid-19 Update: No to USA

Covid-19 Update: EU says NO to USA

The verdict is in: The European Union has said NO to visitors from the USA until further notice.

While we're just as sad about this as any other operation in the tourism sector, we can't help but understand when public health is valued more than economic returns.

They say this decision will be reviewed every two weeks but given the seemingly out-of-control spread of coronavirus in the USA at present, especially when compared to the EU-member states, it's hard to imagine things changing quickly enough for us to open Piedmont Cycling Resort in 2020.

Check the blog for updates but meanwhile, why not make plans for summer 2021? We've already moved some client reservations to next season, why not join them?

We'll restart La Gazzetta dello CycleItalia with details for 2021 in September.

Stay safe. We miss you.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Vino Quotidiano (Everyday Wine)


Everyday wine? "Does that mean you drink wine every day?" you ask? In Italian we'd say "Ma certo!" (but of course!)

Wine is far from an extravagance here unless you enjoy high-priced bottles from famous makers. We like those as much as anyone but reserve them for Sunday pranzo and/or special occasions.

For everyday there's vino sfuso, bulk wine put into your own container. Our favorite source is just off the island of Ortigia where we can purchase what you see in the photo (3 magnum-sized, screw-top bottles we use over and over again + a regular-sized, corked bottle) for the equivalent of $15. 

This time of year we drink far less red wine, so two magnums of rosato (a blend of nero d'avola and nerello mascalese) and another of bianco (in this case inzolia) + the rosso (nero d'avola) will keep our wine glasses full for awhile.

Yep, more than 5 liters of good-quality, enjoyable everyday wine for barely $15 at a place 5 minutes from our house via our shopping bike(s).

Even closer to home is the water fountain. Here you can get 6-liters of cold, sparkling drinking water for the equivalent of 50 cents provided you bring your own containers. Ours, just like for wine, are glass know.

La vita e bella!!!

PS-no word yet as to when visitors from the USA might be allowed into the EU. We'll post something here as soon as announcements are made in case you're interested in enjoying Piedmont Cycling Resort this season. Rumors are flying about something being announced July 1.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Getting Dirty in Sicily

Harry & Leather get dirty in Sicily

Until just last week travel was still restricted in Italy due to the pandemic so we decided to explore more of Sicily with bicycles. Currently plans are to allow visitors to Italy from the USA without quarantine starting in July so check with us if you'd like to enjoy Piedmont Cycling Resort in 2020. And while we we're at it during this restricted period, why not help out a local tour operator since we're all stuck on the island? 

ETNA Bike Tours got the call! You can see our itinerary (as well as all of their other offerings) via the link provided. They're now fully open for business but normally need 4 participants to make a tour viable so we suggested if/when they could come up with 2 more to contact us and we'd join them. They instead proposed running it with just the two of us. We weren't going to turn that down, especially as they asked for no increase in price, so we signed up.

They even picked us up right here on Ortigia (at a small extra charge) so we could get started riding right away. As you can see above, Italians are taking the pandemic seriously and following the recommended protocols, including masks when you can't respect the social-distance.

After a short transfer and stop for espresso and change of clothing we jumped on the MTB's they provided after installing our favorite SMP saddles. We always seem to be in-between S and M on bikes sold in t-shirt sizes, but a bit too small is way better than a bit too big! We began on the slopes of Mt. Etna on a Saturday along with plenty of others out on this popular trail - probably because it's easy to get-to from Catania. Normally ETNA Bike Tours would pick you up upon arrival at the Fontanarossa (CTA) airport. 

A lot of this day's riding was double-track with a carpet of pine needles along with a few spots like these. BELLA, no?

Eventually we got to the lava fields, no way around them unless you want to do out-and-back, which was not our plan - we had a guide to drive a vehicle around so we could ride to our night's lodging where our luggage awaited!

We're not big fans of bouncing over large lava rocks but it was just the first day and we really wanted to experience ETNA, so bounce we did.

Our favorite day's ride was our third of the tour. You might be able to see some details HERE. We climbed up a steep paved road in a natural forest preserve to arrive at some really fun double-track with no huge rocks to bounce over. We really had fun, remembering why we got into MTB's in the first place.

For us, there's no pedala forte (and there was plenty of that!) without the mangia bene and ETNA Bike Tours has that covered as well. Maurizio is certainly a buona forchetta who enjoys sharing his knowledge of the best local specialties and where to find them.

Maurizio was there with us every day, helped on various days by Una or JoAnn, ex-pats who like us, have fallen in love with Sicilia and moved here permanently.

More from our favorite riding day.

The final day we rode (mostly) downhill to Giardini Naxos as Heather wanted to check out the museum there. Maurizio and Una rode with us while another staffer, Sergio drove the van down there so we could skip the long slog inland (and uphill!) back to our lodging. GRAZIE!!!

We've worked with a few bike tour biz colleagues over the decades but none as nice or as well-organized as ETNA Bike Tours.  Same with their bicycles - mechanically they were perfect (grazie Sergio!) unlike so many rental bikes that seem to see professional servicing only when they stop working entirely.

We look forward to having them visit us at Piedmont Cycling Resort in the future. 


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Coronavirus in Italy: Update

Coronavirus in Italy: Update

The blogger who banned Zio Lorenzo recently for comments calling out his hypocrisy asked his readers to report their current situations regarding the pandemic and its effects on their lives. Since Zio is banned, he'll report here instead:

We pointed out we were not going outside to ride bikes just-for-fun even before the lockdown began here in Sicily and suggested our friends act in solidarity with their fellow cyclists. More than a few replied with comments like "Well, if I were in Italy now, I'd be doing the same, but in my state there are no cases...." and worse.

While they seemed to grasp the concept that places like NYC were overwhelmed with Covid-19 while their state, whether it was New Mexico or Iowa was seeing no effects, the idea that Sicily might be more like NM or IA than Lombardy in Italy's north was lost on them. Further, the idea of solidarity with those required to stay inside was also lost on them, some of them acted as if the infections in other areas were somehow the fault of their citizens - too old, too many smokers, etc. or their healthcare system.

We tried to point out that it was only a matter of time before they would see the same infection and death rates unless some serious social-distancing and testing measures were embraced, but it fell on deaf ears. Are they getting the hint now?

At present Sicily, with 5 million inhabitants has just over 3 thousand reported cases of Covid-19 and 250+ deaths. New Mexico, despite having just 2 million inhabitants currently has 5 thousand cases and over 200 deaths while Iowa with 3 million inhabitants has 12 thousand cases and 270+ deaths. Sicily's numbers are going down while both NM and IA's are going up, up, up.

Meanwhile, the USA currently leads the world in Covid-19 infections and deaths despite having less than 5% of the world's population but Russia and Brazil, two other countries that failed to take this pandemic seriously, are gaining quickly. So much winning!

We're now in week 2 of phase 2, the first easing of our lockdown while these US states are either easing even further or never had a stay-at-home rule of any kind. Other than going out for rides most days our lockdown routine has stayed the same: one grocery store visit per week + one visit to the outdoor fruit and vegetable market + quick trips out every other day for fresh bread and drinking water. 
Otherwise it's: Stay home. Stay safe.

So stay safe, stay home, unless going out is really necessary, no matter how well (or badly) your government is doing in the fight against the coronavirus.

We're ALL in this together!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Who was that masked man? Covid-19

Mask 'em up!

Looks like this social-distancing stuff's gonna be with us for awhile, so why not get ready for the long haul?

100% Made-in-Italy and with the Italian tricolore, what's not to like? Some of the right-wing politicians here have begun wearing masks that look just like a flag's been strapped over your face so we didn't want that, but this seems a nice compromise.

We'll try these on our way in and out of town when cycling and of course have one on any time we venture out of the house, no matter how infrequent we're trying to keep that.

Stay safe. Stay home.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Free at Last! Phase 2 lockdown begins in Italy


Harry & Leather with Ortigia (Siracusa) in the background

They let us out! Our road bikes have not been out of the house (unless you count up on the terrace) for 2+ months!

But today Fase 2 of the Covid-19 Italian lockdown began and outdoor exercise was OK again as long as social-distance regulations were followed. Families don't have to worry about distance between family members, just the rest of the population so we're just fine riding together as we usually do.

It looks like we're dressed for cold in the photo despite the summer-like temperatures. Those buff things get pulled up over our faces when we're in the town or pop into (like we did on our return today) a store to grab something while we're out. When not over our faces they sit there around our necks, but so far the breathable material's not felt too warm.

Otherwise, we're still in "stay safe, stay home" mode but now with cycling outside added to our weekly outing for groceries and a couple ventures out of the house each week for fresh bread and drinking water.

Restaurants are free now to offer take-out food, same with coffee and pastry shops. We're hoping our favorite pizzeria might offer pizza-to-go soon*?

We still can't go anywhere (as up to Piedmont Cycling Resort) for now but there are two week gaps in the loosening of the restrictions so they can gauge how the greater freedom impacts infection rates. If all goes well most things will be open again and travel will be freed up by early in June.

Wherever you are, please follow the regulations put-in-place by your local health experts - we're all in this together!

Stay safe. Stay home.


* Anima e Core has reopened for delivery or to-go service!!!!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Travel to Italy: Update

Travel to Italy: Update

This is a statement issued by Giorgio Palmucci, President of ENIT-Italian National Tourist Board in support of Dario Franceschini – Minister of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism

“Tourism in Italy will start again, with all precautions and in maximum safety. Minister Franceschini did well to clarify that no border closure is expected. Those who love Italy must be allowed to return to enjoy it, in compliance with governmental and regional guidelines. It is a delicate phase in which it is essential to defend Italy also through correct communication. Misinformation and fake news risk creating serious damage and unjustified alarmism. It is therefore important to follow institutional sources and reliable news as much as possible, such as those provided by the Italian National Tourist Board, which provides an official bi-weekly update on the situation in Italy and in the world”.

Franceschini himself, when asked about the claims in Italy's Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday, said: "As is all too obvious, I have never spoken, nor ever thought, of closing the Italian borders to tourists for 2020,". "I am working on the exact opposite. I proposed yesterday at the meeting of Tourism Ministers of the European Union, a European uniformity of the safety rules with respect to the risk of contagion, allowing the free movement of tourists within the European Union. So we're starting bilateral talks with other countries that have a lot of tourism going to to Italy," he added.
"Unfortunately, it is clear that fake news on closed borders is being circulated, with hostile intentions towards our country."

So don't believe any fake news! Instead contact us about your plans for 2020. We're in contact with our friends in Piedmont regularly and can update you on what is going on there. 

As we post this we still have reservations for July so if you'd like to join us, that's looking like the best time at present. We are keeping our policy of 100% refund if two weeks before your arrival the US CDC or State Department warns against any non-essential travel to Italy.

If July doesn't work for you, we are considering operations during August, September and beyond if interest is there. Don't let the pandemic ruin your 2020 cycling dreams! We're here to help.

Meanwhile, our lockdown here in Italy moves to phase 2 on May 4. Bars and ristoranti will still be closed except for take-out but riding your bike outside will be OK again as long as social-distancing is observed. By July it seems (barring any increase in infections) all businesses will be re-opened under some restrictions throughout Italy and we plan to be there for our clients.

As they say here: ANDRA TUTTO BENE!

For now though: Stay safe, Stay home.