Bicycling in Italy, homeland of the celebrated Giro d’Italia

The Giro d’Italia is – together with Tour de France and Vuelta a España – one of the most important European bicycle competition. It has been devised by Italian journalist Tullo Morgagni in 1909. For its first edition, the Giro offered a 25.000 lire prize, together with the chance to join “one of the most yearned and greatest challenge of international cycling”.

The starting point of that first race was Milan, where it ended after eight legs through Bologna, Chieti, Napoli, Rome, Florence, Genoa and Turin, for a total sum of 2.448 kilometres. 127 runners joined the event, but only 49 made it to the end. Among them the winner, Luigi Ganna, an Italian construction worker who developed his talent driving his bicycle to work and back over 100 kilometres every day. To the journalists asking him how did he feel after the endeavour, he just answered in his own dialect “me brüsa el cül” – my arse stings.

Since then, the Giro d’Italia has been renewed every year – save for the years during first and second world war – and in 2012 it achieved its ninety-fifth edition. The actual tour started in Verona – the beginning leg always changed through its history – but it was preceded by three events in Denmark. The arrival, as usual, was in Milan, where the headquarters are of the sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport, one of the Giro‘s major actors since its birth.

Every year the race’s itinerary is slightly different, and every time all Italian towns who could enter it fight harshly to gain such a prestigious place. The Giro attracts hordes of fans and passionates, who will stand by the track – sometimes in the middle of the track – shouting and cheering for their heros. The Giro‘s fame made Italy one of the most bicycle loving countries in the world. Cyclists ranging from 4 to 80 roam the country’s roads during weekends and holidays, enjoying their favourite sport through the medieval towns in the North, in the mountains, over the Tuscan stunning hills or on the seafront of Sicily and Sardinia… surely a good reason to join an Italian cycling holiday as offered by Skedaddle.

One last curiosity: while the winner wears the maglia rosa – “pink shirt” – from 1946 to 1951 the Giro d’Italia also awarded a special prize known as “black shirt” to the last ranked. Inspiring character of this feature was an Italian footballer, Giuseppe Ticozzelli, who in 1926 joined the competition despite his bulkiness. He used to reach the starting lane just in time by cab, begin with a rabid dash, and suddenly stop in some restaurant for a healthy meal, uncaring of the race nor the rank. The award also came with a cash prize, but in 1952 the professional racers protested because of the shameful shows it encouraged, from hiding in bars and corn fields, to flatting one’s own tire.

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