When times permits I have been dipping in and out of the 2021 Giro d’Italia a stage of which also went over the Zoncolan last Saturday. Here I’m revisiting our most recent trip to watch the race.
We kicked off our Giro adverture in NE Italy, staying in Pordenone, which has a beautiful Old Town surrounded by a river and plenty of greenery. It’s a place and area we both know well as my beloved has clients here and I have a dear friend living nearby in Asolo. It’s our first visit since the Giro 2016 and we’ve enjoyed visiting old haunts and finding new ones.
Conveniently we arrived at Apero’clock and headed straight into the bar opposite the hotel for an Aperol Spritz. It was superior to those we’d recently drunk in Paris. We’re beginning to think that they’re like coffee, better and cheaper in Italy. It was easily as good as the one I recently drank at the Carlton in Cannes which was 10 times the price!
I’d elected to dine in my favourite restaurant but “shock, horror” we found it was closed and undergoing renovation. So we went to my second favourite. We fortunately arrived there ahead of a large party who’d laid on some entertainment, a chap at an organ singing. It was truly dreadful and we were grateful we were seated at the other end of the restaurant. The dog on the table next to us started howling, whether in protest or to drown out the singing I have no idea but………In any event, dinner was delicious and we quickly departed for an early night.
Next morning we headed to our first stage – no 13, unlucky for some – from Ferrarra to Nervesa della Battaglia. The finish town was in Prosecco country, so hopes were high that it would be one of those delightful historic towns with plenty of Baroque architecture set around a chaming town square lined with cafes, bars and restaurants. Sadly, our hopes were cruelly dashed.
The finish town had absolutely nothing to commend it. The locals had done their best, festooning it with pink flowers, bunting and balloons. Its claim to fame is only as the site of an important WWI battle – the Giro was celebrating 100 years since it ended. Otherwise, the town is totally unremarkable.
After a quick walk around town, we ate at the only place serving meals rather than just panini. Chaos reigned within. We waited 40 mins for a drink, a further 20 mins for our starter and, after another 75 minutes, gave up on our main course. However, I do believe one of the members of staff may have provided Julie Walters with inspiration for Mrs Overall. Though even she melted when ladies’ fave former pro-rider Bernie Eisel sat down at the next table with the Eurosport crew. She served them in record time! Though, to be fair, the restaurant was now practically empty. It took me a further 15 minutes to pay and even that was only thanks to the timely intervention of the Rai television crew.
On the upside, a local producer of Prosecco distributed bottles of same in the press room so we picked up one each – result. The race passed through the town once before the finish on what was a rare day for the sprinters, ahead of Saturday’s fearsome stage to Monte Zoncolan. The last of the four-man break was sucked back in within sight of the line and Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) took his third stage, tightening his grip on the puce jersey – a colour, I should add, that suits no one, at any time, anywhere.
We hung back to watch Alessandro di Stefano’s Rai TV show Processo alla Tappa (After the Stage). A consummate professional from her finger tips to her toes, she asks all the right questions and rapidly summarises the key points. Sadly we missed Apero’clock due to the huge traffic jam as everyone fled the town.
Once back at base, we ate at one of the newer restaurants in town which has now gone on “The List”. Dessert was an ice cream from the shop in the town square which is owned by a former professional cyclist who still looks pretty trim. He obviously doesn’t over-indulge on his products.
The stage start on Saturday in San Vito al Tagliamento was just down the road from where we were staying. I hung around the buses to drop off some cakes that I’m sure would be appreciated after the day’s tough stage which finished on the iconic Monte Zoncolan. It took me a while to locate everyone, as the parking was so disorganised. As usual the space allocated for the buses was far too small so they were spread all over the place.
This start town was much more to our liking and was absolutely packed to the rafters with both locals and visitors and, as usual, bedecked in pink. Because space was limited at the Monte Zoncolan finish, we elected to watch it on the television. We were somewhat surprised by Chris Froome’s (Sky) resurrection but he did say he’d reccied the stage beforehand. His planning and preparation was rewarded with a surprising stage win, although race leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) managed to limit his losses. Saturday evening, we tried a well-known fish restaurant in Pordenone which was excellent and wondered why we’d never eaten there before. It too went on “The List.”
Again, Sunday’s start stage of Tolmezzo was not too far away though closer to the Austrian border. It was yet another charming Italian town albeit one with an Alpine feel. Unfortunately, the shops were open and I spotted a lovely handbag that I just had to acquire! If only the organisers had given me access to the sign-on, this would never have happened. Again, to avoid the traffic, we watched the stage conclusion on the television even though the finish town wasn’t too far away. Consequently, we were around for the all important aperotivo which preceeded a trip to our favourite pizza joint.