Touring Italy with the Giro d'Italia 2018 (Part One)

The 101st edition of the legendary Giro d’Italia, one of cycling's Grand Tour races, began on May 4 in Israel and arrived in Italy on May 7. From Sicily, the Giro will conclude in Rome on May 27, after 21 stages and 3.546 kilometers, passing through 495 cities.

Here’s a Giro-inspired tour of Italy through some most picturesque locations touched by the race. It’s an opportunity to discover some little-known corners of Italy, as well as their traditions and spring events, while taking part in the excitement of the competition as you see the peloton race through town. And, you don’t need to ride yourself.

Catania-Caltagirone, km 191:

Sicily’s Caltagirone, whose historic center is a Unesco World Heritage site, is the destination of the first Italian leg of the Giro. Caltagirone is known for the production of pottery, especially majolica and terra-cotta wares, and for the monumental Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte, built from 1608. Every year between May and June (this year May 18 to June 24), the Infiorata festival takes place: the 142 steps of the Staircase, each decorated with ceramics, will be adorned with plants and flowers to honor the Madonna di Conadomini, who will also be celebrated in the traditional ‘A rusedda’ parade, held on May 28.

Pizzo Calabro - Praia a Mare, km 159:

Pizzo Calabro, a seaside village overlooking the Gulf of Sant'Eufemia in Calabria, is the birthplace of the ‘tartufo’ ice cream dessert, hazelnut gelato with a heart of dark chocolate (it can also be made with other flavors, traditionally two). The place to try it is the Gelateria Artigianale Bar Dante in the central Piazza della Repubblica, where this sweet treat was invented almost 70 years ago; here, it's served in the black and white varieties. Follow with a visit to the old castle, built by the Aragonese in the 15th century, and a dip into the waters of the Thyrrenian Sea.

Pesco Sannita - Gran Sasso d'Italia, km 224:

You’d have a great vantage point to observe the athletes racing by in Calascio: Rocca Calascio, the highest fortress in the Apennines, captured in many films. Within the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park and alongside the high plain of Campo Imperatore, Rocca Calascio dates back to the year 1000; it can be reached on foot, and is worth the uphill walk for the magic medieval atmosphere. For something more worldly, stop by the Rifugio della Rocca, just below the watchtower; try the restaurant for typical Abruzzese dishes, and, if you wish to spend the night, sleep at the ‘albergo diffuso,’ where the rooms are located in the restored old houses of the village.

Penne - Gualdo Tadino, km 239:

The picturesque town of Gualdo Tadino is the final destination for the longest stage of the Giro 2018. This Umbrian town is famous for its artistic ceramics; the ceramists of Gualdo Tadino were already well known and exported their products throughout the region in the 14th century; since the 19th century, it’s been the most important center for the production of majolica in Italy. Don’t miss the Ceramics Museum, housed inside the Rocca Flea, a 12th-century defensive structure that is the symbol of the town, a station on the ancient Roman road Via Flaminia in the third century BC.

Assisi - Osimo, km 156:

A short distance from the Conero Riviera in the Marche, Osimo boasts a thousand-year-old history as evidenced by its massive walls, dating to the Roman period (174 BC); the Romanesque-Gothic Osimo Cathedral, built between the 8th and 12th centuries; and the 12 ‘headless’ Roman statues, which can be admired by the entrance to the Town Hall. The statues are thought to have once embellished the ancient Roman forum in Osimo, but the reason why they are headless remains a mystery to this day.

Check out the slideshow below.

Off the beaten track
The Curious Traveler
Gualdo Tadino