Thursday, December 2, 2021

New, nuovo, nuovissimo!

 Year-end treats in Sicily

Apologies again if you're snowbound somewhere but it's December, often one of the best months of the year down here in Sicily.

Cold? By Sicilian standards I guess, they say your blood thins out so it seems cold even when it's 50+ F outside. That means cycling wearing at least knickers and long-sleeved jerseys but (so far) it's not cold enough for full-fingered gloves or ear coverings, though we've seen some local riders already dressed up like it's ready to snow!

But the cooler weather brings some of our favorite things: Novello wine for one - think of the French Beaujolais Nouveau idea...fresh, clean, grapey and delicious, perfect for that turkey dinner at holiday time. We get ours from a place just off the island at a shop Zio calls "Wine-Boy" as it's now run by the son of the owner (his mother) who passed-away not too long ago.

Next up: Oranges, which are a winter fruit after all and the novellini (new ones) are coming into the market now, with the blood-red ones coming soon. We don't much bother with fresh-squeezed juice until the oranges are fresh, fresh, now!

Finally: Olive oil. Look how green that is! Another fresh-squeezed thing here this time-of-year. This bottle was filled by "Spice-boy" who runs a little shop here selling spices and products his family produces at their farm. Zio Lorenzo passed by the farm one day and saw their olive trees and asked if he could buy some of the oil. They sell oil produced and packaged by others as well, but agreed to share theirs with us. Needless to say, it's really good.

A five-liter can of freshly-squeezed oil was also purchased from our friends at Caseficio Borderi since "Spice-boy"s won't last long. When we lived here only during the winter we'd bring back one of these cans and share it with friends in Iowa. Packing this in the checked luggage was always a challenge!

Mangia bene!

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Time passes..or does it?

 Time passes..or does it?

Via Galilei looking north 1950

Via Galilei looking north in 2021 from pretty much the same viewpoint

Friday, November 26, 2021

Cycling Friendly Siracusa

 Cycling-Friendly Siracusa

These signs are popping up all over Italy and finally Siracusa gets one.

This busy two-lane road is something we avoid if possible but it's one of the few ways southwest from here if one wants to ride along the coast or get inland without dealing with too much traffic. 

While we don't enjoy riding on this we've never had real issues here, it's a few hundred meters before this where things can get unpleasant. Maybe they'll put up another one back there? 

Either way, the feel of riding here (as well as anywhere else in Italy that we've ridden) when it comes to feeling safe (or at least accepted) on the road is far better than anywhere in the good ol' USA!

Meanwhile, it's "Black Friday" seemingly everywhere on earth. Did you buy anything today? We didn't unless you count a panettone. Why a panettone? We had a new computer printer show up the other day while we were out so the delivery man kindly left it with our next-door neighbor.

The neighbor brought the box over, kind-of ripped open and apologized, saying her elderly mother thought the package was a panettone and opened it! It must have been sad to find only a computer printer but all the parts were there and the printer works fine.

Zio Lorenzo decided to get a panettone and dropped it by the neighbor's this afternoon, telling the grandson who answered the door he'd found it at the bottom of the printer box! 

A worthwhile Black Friday purchase, no?

Happy Thanksgiving (a day late)!

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Sun? What's that?

 Sunny Saturday in Siracusa

Apologies if you're in a place with freezing temps now that it's November, but the past few weeks here have caused us to think of the Pacific Northwest!

We had the "medicane" last week with lots of flooding north of us and roads full of puddles and potholes here in Siracusa. Zio Lorenzo has forbidden the riding of the freshly-washed road bikes since of those "Want it to rain? Just wash the car!" situations.

Now a cyclone is parked over Sardegna with Sicilia getting in on the rain and wind. Zio even had to take freshly-washed laundry to the use the dryers!

But the sun came out yesterday so we were out on the bike trail with the ancient MTB's that a) Have some basic fenders that keep most of the wheel spray off your feet and backside b) Zio Lorenzo doesn't care if they get dirty.

Today we headed north and climbed a bit to Castello Eurialo, just for a change of scenery. The roads up on the ridge are less-than-great pavement-wise in normal times but after the rains we were very happy that we had the fenders...and the fat tires!

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Still walking after all these years...

Still walking after all these years..

 Above you see us with our old friend Alex Gullo at one of our favorite eateries here in Ortigia - Osteria Sveva.
Zio Lorenzo first met Alex at a mail drop in Southern California around 1995 while working full-time for "those other guys". 

We hit it off pretty quickly, doing the "You fly, I'll buy!" thing with Lorenzo riding off on his bike to come back with espresso since Alex couldn't just leave the place unmanned. "Make sure they pack it tight and don't run the water too long!" were Alex' instructions. Eventually someone gave him a machine and Lorenzo happily supplied the coffee so they could make and enjoy it there.

They eventually rode home one evening with Alex following along on his beat-up Lazzaretti bike. Lorenzo had some wheels and other parts, though used were upgrades for what was on the bike so the idea was to replace them, get the bike running right and why not stay for dinner as well?

Heather liked him too, so we stayed in touch and when it was time to move to Iowa Alex came along with Lorenzo in the truck with our furniture inside.

Alex eventually made his way back to Italy and met the love of his life who we met shortly after during some free time we had in Italy. Alessandro and Rachele went on to have seven children, the youngest now being 12!

By then he was a tour guide too, though on two feet instead of two wheels, becoming a licensed expert in Assisi (where he produced a fantastic tour for Heather's study-abroad program a few years ago) Sicily and Siena.

He's here in Siracusa now, winding up an 8-night walking tour for a group on a private basis. We were happy to learn his walking tour biz has bounced back very strongly after the lockdowns as vaccines and other measures combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Buon lavoro Alex!

Thursday, October 28, 2021

"Harry and Leather" retire

 We've retired!

That's right, after more than two decades "Harry and Leather" aka "Lorenzo e Erica" (Larry & Heather) have called it a career when it comes to the bike tour biz.

While we're no longer operating Piedmont Cycling Resort don't despair - Hotel Ariotto and the wonderful roads of Monferrato are still there for you.

We visited with our hotel partners and friends a few weeks ago to discuss the future before we decided to stop, though we just might find ourselves up there enjoying la dolce vita in bicicletta more times each year (though for shorter periods) than we used to!

It's a short flight to Milano from Catania in Sicily, which is less than an hour's drive from our home in Siracusa. In case you didn't know, we left the USA for good back in 2018 and bought a house on the island of Ortigia in 2019.

Going up in the spring, summer or fall for a week or two could be something we do every year.

The roads of Ruche two weeks ago

Bike friendly? The sign asks motorists for 1.5 meters

Along with a new wine to enjoy!
You could too. Hotel Ariotto is still committed to helping you (though now you'll have to bring your own bike) enjoy the sights, aromas and tastes of their UNESCO heritage area.

With their advertisement (above) in this book (below)..

..they demonstrate their welcoming of cyclists to Hotel Ariotto while the book itself (available at Ariotto) features 120 on and off-road ride maps, descriptions (in English!) and more in the Monferrato region, complete with downloadable GPX files for your computerized map gizmo!

Many of these routes (or parts of them) will be familiar, while Hotel Ariotto has printed copies of the CycleItalia RideGuides as well.

While we no longer will be there to enjoy it with you, most of the rest of the services you're familiar with will be available, including airport transportation. Make your reservations by clicking HERE.

Type Piedmont Cycling Resort into the Promo Code box so they'll know you're a cyclist wanting to enjoy la dolce vita in bicicletta.

Grazie mille to everyone who joined us during our more than two decades in the bike tour biz and buon divertimento for the future!

Pedala forte, mangia bene per sempre!

Heather & Larry

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Bikes, beer, cars

 Bikes, beer, cars. 

Our friends at BikeRaceInfo had a story about a big merger in the bike industry. Scroll down from this page to read it, but the basic story was:

Dorel Sports, the parent group of Cannondale, Schwinn and GT will join up with Pon Holdings, the parent of Cervelo, Santa Cruz, and Gazelle

So, just like beer, a few big companies own most of the brand names. It's no secret that most of these groups have their bicycles made in one or more of the big bike factories in China, just like most of the beer companies brew their beer brands in massive breweries. You wonder if it's not all the same stuff with only the bottles and labels changing?

Did the automotive industry pioneer this? The bike biz certainly took a lesson from them when it comes to the infamous "planned obsolescence" with model years and a constant churn of new this or that, quite often the same thing with a new color or logo, just like the old General Motors days when there was a Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac but not much difference other than the emblems stuck on 'em or maybe the dealer you bought yours from.

Meanwhile, Specialized is half-owned by Merida while Giant makes most of the bikes sold with Trek brand names on them and Grimaldi Industry AB owns Bianchi, Gitane and Peugeot so what are you getting with a famous brand name?

There's certainly nothing wrong with those bikes unless perhaps yours has been recalled . But Zio Lorenzo will throw in a plug here for bikes made by real people with their own hands, like Michele Favaloro

Just like craft or micro-brewed beer, you CAN find something different, probably better and quite likely at a competitive price since these smaller makers don't have to inflate their markups to buy expensive advertising via pro cycling teams or sponsoring NFL games on TV. 
Example: Dee (shown above) paid far less for the Favaloro bike in the photo than the Bianchi bike he'd been considering, not to mention having it made-to-measure vs a choice of too big, too small or close enough.

Meanwhile we're working on an announcement about Piedmont Cycling Resort 2022. Check back soon!