Wow, this was a challenging day. How much fun can one stand? Giro d'Italia Stage 7, a 264 km marathon from Grossetto to Fiuggi started for the riders around 10:30 AM.
Celeste Milani left his house about the same time to pick Larry up at the Academy by 11 AM. Right on time and off we went! Unlike the riders our first goal was PRANZO and the tiny town of Artena was our destination.
As you might guess, a steep climb was on tap...luckily we were in the car!
By the time we arrived at Locanda del Principe (shown above) the riders had covered almost 100 kilometers and we'd developed good appetites. This tiny, Slowfood recommended place was about halfway between Rome and Fiuggi, leaving us plenty of time for all the courses as well as plenty of time to get to the race finish. A little advance planning goes a long way! We went all-in, enjoying a mixed antipasto of various sliced meats, a prima salata cheese and fresh zucchini along with locally made Cesanese vino.
Our first plates were a wonderful gnocchi lunghi (think of the consistency of gnocchi but in a long, "pici" type noodle) dressed with fresh menta romana, zucchini, pecorino cheese and guanciale. Unique and very, very tasty.
Second plates we again agreed upon, the classic abbacchio scottadito (tiny lamb chops) that were so hot they actually "scotta'd our diti" (burned our fingers) when we picked them up.
We finished with a delicious, homemade variation on tiramisu with fresh strawberries before hopping back in the car and heading to Fiuggi.
Celeste had contacted a friend (more on him later) who worked with the Giro and thought he could score us VIP passes, so off we went first-thing to the race HQ to see how lucky we might be?
A phone call or three, then sitting in front of some helpful ladies and soon enough we were VIP'd, complete with photo ID badges! As you can see above we wasted NO time heading off to the special, reserved space with TV coverage, snacks and drinks of all kinds.
All just 50 meters from the finish line as you can see from the "first-floor" but we later moved down to the ground level for a close up view. A big screen TV was right behind us so we could keep up on the action as the race grew near.
Meanwhile, some real VIP's came in, including the ever-green Gianni Motta. Can you believe this guy is 70+ years old?
How 'bout World and Olympic cycling champion Paolo Bettini? These guys were riding with clients and such of the Mediolanum bank, sponsor of the blue (used to be green back-in-the-day) climbers jersey.
Then there was the Balocco "Cookie Man" as part of the publicity caravan. This may not rival the one at Le Beeg Shew, but it's loud and colorful just the same.
As usual, when you're AT the race, you really don't have a great grasp on what's going on, it's more about being there to soak-up the atmosphere live, but it's pretty cool when you can snap a photo of the final sprint like this, even if you can't tell who actually won. The fans were repeatedly asked to keep their hands (and everything else) out of the way of the riders.
On the way out, Milani wanted to track down Francesco Simula, his friend who arranged for our VIP passes. I suggested we walk toward the RAI TV trucks where we ran into Massimo Ghirotto, a stage winner at all three Grand Tours who now works for RAI radio as a moto commentator. Above you can see him posing with Celeste.
Just then Milani got a call from Simula, who rides on the back of RAI's moto 1 and operates the camera to give us a lot of those great TV images each day. As you can see above we ran right down to meet him. MILLE GRAZIE to both of these nice guys for arranging Larry's VIP credentials!!!
We passed by the Tinkov team trucks next and Milani wanted to stop and say CIAO to friend Ivan Basso, but he'd already gone to his hotel. This mobile kitchen was parked nearby, seemingly ready to cook up food for Contador's team. The Grand Tour Kitchen signs hype a cookbook they sell, but the smells coming out of this thing reminded me of one of the frite wagons at races in Belgium! Maybe that's Il Pistolero's secret?
Larry got back to the Academy just in time to score a dish of homemade gelato, capping an extraordinary day of living the dream!!!