Every stage of the Giro d’Italia enjoys some degree of notoriety, but the ‘Roman’ stretch has its own unique charm. The event has always mingled well with local culture and every restaurant, nightclub and bar around enjoys a swelling of its usual clientele.
Given that stages 4-5 are not deep in the wilderness or atop a mighty peak, many rookie cyclists have a tendency to underestimate the capital chapter of the Giro d’Italia. There is no chance of cyclists like 9/4 favourite Tom Dumoulin slipping up, but while there are indeed no real climbs or gradients of which to speak for most of the stage, the final stretch of the oft-dreaded stage 4 often dashes the hopes of even seasoned riders, who have every right to expect contention for glory.
Stage 4: Giro d’Italia 2017
Its final stretch is uphill, with the undulating routes through Tuscania and Vetralla being followed by a steepening gradient through Maremma and Manciano, immediately after the spring through Mentana, the closing kilometres feature a slight gradient on urban roads. The sudden change in air quality also a side-feature that can catch out the less-experienced riders in the running and drastically change live odds for the event.
Amongst those who will need to prove the credentials of their ambitions are former winner Tom Dumoulin and Vincenzo Nibali, who has publicly stated his desire to conquer both France and Italy. They stand prominent as a popular draw amongst those perusing the current list of free sports bets, delivered by only the most widely-trusted licensed bookmakers who know everything about the strengths and weaknesses of every rider.
Well-known heavyweights like Alejandro Valverde and Simon Yates, who each have their own personal agendas after underachieving at last year’s event, are also ones to watch. However, the sight of cyclists whizzing past is a fleeting one and in the aftermath of this very short-lived highlight, attention soon turns to the local culture – especially food and drink, the quality of which is practically a religious affair in this part of the world.
Event provides boost to local economy
Naturally, fans of the event will turn up in droves for the more urbanised parts of the contest and this, in turn, will see a boom in sales of food and drink. While partaking of the finest cuisine Rome has to offer is something natives are used to, anyone coming in from the outside will never see Italian repasts and libations in the same way again.
The shape and texture of Pizza often comes as a surprise to those visiting Rome for the first time:
While the addition of herbs is nothing new to foreigners, any Italian ‘ristorante’ that values its reputation will take locally-sourced ingredients at all costs. Any of the common herbs found on Pizza, such as basil and oregano, will have been harvested and utilized within 24 hours of being picked. The difference that makes is astounding.
For a pizza experience that really reflects Italy, ‘Quattro Formaggio’ (four-cheese) is a must, with classic Italian cheeses such as Taleggio and Parmesan often in the mix. Away from the ‘tourist foods’, authentic dishes such as Saltimbocca alla romana (veal rolls with ham and sage) and Supplì (rice seasoned with meat sauce and mozzarella) are delicacies you’ll remember for a lifetime.
When it comes to dessert, Gelato is a must for any first-time visitor. Made with a higher concentration of milk than elsewhere and a greater emphasis on getting air into the mix, it is seen as a smooth – yet richer – version of ice cream.
Aside from the local beers and wines, Bellini is also a popular accompaniment to an authentic Italian meal. A unique blend of prosecco, peach juice and maraschino cherry juice, it is as Italian as it gets. So too is Limoncello, a sweet lemon liquor used as an aperitif before or after meals.
The making of a Bellini
Beyond the capital
There can be no doubt that some tourists will take a macabre satisfaction in sipping a Bellini while the world’s finest cyclists toil under the burning Mediterranean sun. Yet, for some, simply being in Rome for stages 4-5 is not enough: the most hardline followers of the event will make it their ambition to attend as many milestones of the Giro d’Italia as possible.
Indeed, any tourists with similar ambitions will be getting their journey underway in Bologna, which hosts the first individual time-trial in Bologna. This, in turn, leads to the first two summits being encountered on the opening day alone. That first day also features the highest mountain – the Gavia Pass.
Ultimately though, as the place to which all roads lead, Rome’s proximity to stages 4 and 5 of the competition are – for many cycling aficionados and especially those with a taste for deluxe cuisine – the biggest flashpoint of the entire event.