One Saturday each May, a three-week sporting event begins in Italy which will criss-cross much of the country and catch nearly everyone in its wake. I’m talking about the Giro d’Italia, the annual bicycle race around Italy.
If you’ve heard of the Tour de France, you’re halfway to understanding the Giro d’Italia. The name of the event just means “Tour of Italy,” and it’s a three-week race similar to the Tour de France, except this one goes around Italy. Almost every day there is a race, called a stage, and at the end the guy who has ridden the entire course in the least amount of accumulated time is the winner.
I’m a cycling fan, and I’m an Italophile – so these three weeks are a great marriage of two loves for me. As a cycling fan, I love watching the daily races and to see what dynamics are developing – who’s riding well? Who doesn’t look so good? Who’s going to attack today? Who’s going to get dropped? But unless you’re also a cycling fan, the intricacies of the race might not have much meaning for you. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t get caught up in the event.
The Giro runs every May, which has become part of the tourism high season. This means there are inevitably people who are traveling throughout Italy during the race who may be lucky enough to experience something of the spectacle for themselves. It can be chaotic – closed roads, traffic jams, sold out hotels – and it can also be a great chance to see Italian citizens animated by something they love.
As the race route changes every year, your ability to intersect with it might be more due to luck than pre-planning, but at the very least you should pop your head into an Italian cafe (one that has a TV) so you can watch people gathered around the set, cheering their favorites on. For my purposes, watching the Giro is also a great way to see parts of the country that I’ve yet to visit. For instance, one year the first few days were on Sardegna and the small islands around it. I’ve never been to Sardegna, and the footage of the race coursing through the beautiful countryside made both the husband and I say, “Wow! We really need to get out there one of these days!”
If you’re interested in learning more about the Giro d’Italia, you can learn quite a bit from the Wikipedia page on the Giro.
And if just watching the race isn’t enough, you can book an Italy cycling trip with a former winner of the Giro d’Italia and current Tuscany resident – American Andy Hampsten and his Cinghiale Cycling Tours.