Search This Blog


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Monuments of Cycling

Long time, no blog. Sorry, but Heather's parents came to visit last week and things were rather busy. Meanwhile, we both got sick with some nasty bug that keeps you up at night with coughing and sneezing. Neither of us has touched a bike in a week to boot.

So, after all this great preparation Larry heads up tomorrow to see the fifth and final of cycling's FIVE MONUMENTS

Doesn't sound so bad you say? Of course not, unless you've allowed your host, Peter Easton of Velo Classic Tours to talk you into RIDING on this course! Mamma Mia! I really (just like a few years ago at Tour of Flanders) just want to see the race live, in-person but Peter insists on my bringing cycling kit and using one of his rental bikes. Funny thing is the same thing happened then, a visit from friends wiped out any sort of training and I went north with a nasty cold. The weather forecast is fine until Saturday and if I've survived until then skipping Saturday's ride might make a LOT of sense!

Look for details on the whole experience next week, provided I survive everything BELGIAN. Next it's Eroica Primavera in southern Tuscany.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Not your average "Fourbucks" espresso shop!

We joke around with our Italian friends when it comes to "caffe" in Italy. It's a far cry from what is served at those places in the USA. In fact, their attempt to crack the Italian market was a miserable failure. I don't think we've ever seen one of their outlets here. Our Italian friends complain about visiting the USA and thinking these places are going to sell them espresso they are familiar with...and in a timely fashion!

We went back to Viterbo this weekend to celebrate the vernal equinox with our friends and were very happy to stop into Gran Caffe Schenardi, right in the historic center. Far more than an espresso joint, we dropped by for an aperitivo in the early evening. Along with your Campari Soda, etc. places like this offer a tasty array of snacks to go with the drinks. Forget about stale popcorn or rancid peanuts!

We're talking real snacks; miniature suppli, various tiny pizza bites, salads of many types, all made here. If you're not super hungry this could even substitute for dinner, which it did in our case!

We were back the next morning for cappuccini e cornetti! They serve our favorite ILLY Caffe and you can tell the barmen (nobody calls these people baristas here) get schooled in how to make a proper cappuccino, espresso, latte/caffe macchiato. No caramel syrups, chocolate, whipped cream, etc. to mask the awful taste of burnt coffee beans like at Fourbucks. And you don't have to give some counter person your name so it can be scrawled on a paper cup while you stand around waiting. And waiting. It's called ESPRESSO for a reason, so why does it take so long?

Later we were taken on a short drive to see Heather's olive tree, "Athena" a remembrance of the winter we lived here and Larry couldn't resist asking "Zio Bruno" about his Fiat 500 as he blasted around the narrow streets in a much newer (and characterless) Fiat 600. Before we left he swung around to a makeshift garage and pulled back the curtain. Next he started her up, revved the engine and beeped the horn! No Photoshop tricks here folks, the car (and Larry) are actual size!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Rare Opportunity!

This almost NEVER happens! We just received two cancellations from guests who'd reserved places on the sold-out for months Legendary Climbs of the Giro July 5-16, 2015. Their loss could be your gain if you can act quickly.  If those dates won't work for you, we also have ONE place left on the Edizione Speciale July 19-30. Don't miss out!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

CycleItalia's new support vehicle

Larry's always been fascinated by the old Fiat 500's, the beloved "Topolino" seen all over Italy. So he couldn't resist when this rare "Giardiniera" version came along. This one even has the "suicide" doors!

We're currently having a roof rack custom-made for the bikes though getting more than 4-5 of 'em up there will be a challenge. The fold-down rear seat will come in handy, though our travel times might need some adjustment as the tiny two-cylinder engine underneath will have a tough time matching the speed of our usual turbo-diesel support van, especially with the windows open - as there's no air conditioning.

Ciclismo come una volta? Indeed!

Note: posted on April Fool's Day 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring into Primavera (Spring)

The European clocks were moved forward into "summer time" this weekend and the weather here in Rome signaled approval. A gorgeous spring day was predicted, perfect for getting out on the bikes.

After a relaxing cappuccino at the local bar, we headed out to the Appia Antica on our ancient MTBs. First stop along the way was to check out Capo di Bove as you can see above.

These private baths date to the 2nd century.

We later passed these soldiers, perhaps on their way to the baths? Must have taken a wrong turn due to a malfunctioning GPS unit and showed up a bit late?

After bouncing around on the ancient paving stones we headed over to the Street Food Festival where it seems everyone and his fratello had the same idea on this gorgeous spring day?

With so many people (after all this is ROME!) it might have been renamed the "Standing in Line Festival" as this was the order of the day.

We lined up for olive ascolani, the tasty stuffed and fried olives, then for beer. As soon as you got whatever they were selling once you arrived at the front of the line, you got into another line, enjoying your treats while waiting for the next ones.

One place ran out of the treat we were after while we were in line! Perhaps it was for the best as these fried things were pretty heavy. 

We pedaled home, cleaned up and settled in for what turned out to be a marathon of bike races on TV. We are really spoiled here between RAI Sport which showed the final day of the Coppi-Bartali stage race from Emilia-Romagna, SKY's Bike Channel showing Ghent-Wevelgem and Eurosport showing the Tour of Catalonia and Criterium International!

After all that (great win by Paolini at G-W!) it was time for dinner so we wandered over to Lumie for Sicilian specialties, including fresh fish and a very good caponata. Not quite like being there but close enough on a lovely spring evening.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Interview with the founder of l'Eroica

Your hosts at their first visit to L'Eroica in 2011

L’Eroica started in 1997 because of one man, Giancarlo Brocci, who admired the values of cycling’s past so much that he wanted to reconnect others to that heritage, one inspired by Italian history, literature, culture, and music. L’Eroica also began as a foundation for the protection and preservation of the last gravel roads in Tuscany. The ride was born and held in and around the Chianti region, with 92 “hunters of feelings and emotions,” as Brocci calls them, at the first event.
Now, the charm and effort of riding a vintage bike over rolling country hills has spread throughout the world, including events in England, Spain, and Japan, and, this year, California.
On April 13, Paso Robles, California, will host Eroica California, taking advantage of the beautiful unpaved and paved roads through the vineyards, oak-studded rolling hills, and coastal mountain ranges of San Luis Obispo County in central California. It will be the first Eroica with an ocean view.
VeloNews spoke with founder Brocci (through a translator) to learn more about the event and the L’Eroica phenomenon.

Read the interview HERE

Then let us know your thoughts. We're considering a "strade bianche" tour in Tuscany in the future. You wouldn't (though we'd certainly encourage it) have to show up with a pre '87 bike meeting L'Eroica regulations, instead you could ride one of our now-classic steel machines or bring your own modern bicycle, same as our other tours.

Like all of our itineraries, this idea began as something we would enjoy ourselves. If we get some positive feedback, we'll start working on it. 

We're planning to revisit Tuscany in 2016 with a guided tour following the route of our current self-guided itinerary, so no dirt roads on this one. A "strade bianche" itinerary would be new, possibly circumnavigating the full 200 km Eroica signposted route over a couple days combined with more great cycling in fabled Toscana.  Perhaps in 2017? 

Sound good? Let us know.

Blog posts about our various bici d'epoca adventures can be found by typing EROICA into the Google search bar at the top of the page.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Milano-Sanremo 2015

"La Primavera"  (literally the spring, as in after winter) or "La Classicissima" (the classic of classics) RCS' Milano-Sanremo race is Sunday. For us this marks the real start of the pro racing season. We're not going up there this year as Heather has other commitments and we saw it live back in 2010 when the photo below was taken. More details on all that HERE.

Larry pauses near the top of the Poggio back in 2010

The first of the Five Monuments of Cycling, followed of course by Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, L-B-L and Lombardia, Milano-Sanremo is the longest single-day race on the pro calendar.

One of our favorite books about these races is "The Spring Classics" published by our friends at Velopress.

Even though today the tiny tunnel atop the Passo Turchino has been replaced with a modern, two-lane galleria, you can still get an idea of what it must have been like to emerge from the damp, gray skies of the Lombardy plains into the spring sunshine of Liguria all those years ago.

All this leads up to a blatant commercial sales pitch (it's OUR blog after all!),for the last two places available on our special itinerary to pay homage to this great race, June 22-29, 2015. Don't miss out!