I should start by noting that the police finally came by to verify my residence, in the person of a tall, thin gentleman who looked about to either retire or fossilize. I wasn’t sure which. He came by on Saturday morning and I was still half asleep. I tossed on some jeans and my bathrobe and let him in. He asked a couple of questions and I answered as best I could in Italian, because he had very little English. Sadly, being half asleep meant I was groping even for words that I knew, but all went well and he filled out his form and was on his way.
This morning, the coastal road and the Riva were shut down for the end stage of the Giro d’Italia, an international bicycle race that originated in 1909 and which has been mostly annual throughout its history, with breaks during the two world wars. According to a book I got handed about the race, in 1946, it was ridden through bombed out villages, rivers were forded by carrying bicycles across them, and the riders came into Trieste under gunfire by an anti-Italian group trying to block them from entering the city.
This year’s Giro started in Belfast, Ireland, then everyone flew to Italy for the remainder of the race. It’s been making its way around the country for about the last three weeks.
Before the race’s riders arrived in the city, a team of Bersaglieri rolled in on bicycles. They’re a type of Italian light infantry unit. The guys on bicycles were older, and looked mostly like vets, though there was also a small brass band, obviously active duty, who played as well, while at a jog. They are apparently quite famous for this as their performance style. I wasn’t able to get a photo of them, sadly, as I was in the wrong place and they literally went by too fast for me to get a shot.
There was a substantial crowd in town for the race, and by the time the riders were making the last loops through Trieste toward the finish line, Piazza Unità was packed. As the riders were coming into the city and along the Riva, the Italian military aerobatics team, the Frecce Tricolori, based in Udine, flew in for a show.
The Giro takes place in 21 different stages. The last leg is 172km, from Gemona to Trieste, led by the Columbian cyclist Nairo Quintana. I actually found myself a good vantage point for the end of the race, at the base of one of the big flagpoles at the seaside end of Piazza Unità. I was able to see a tiny bit of the actual race route through the stands, and the cyclists coming into the piazza right beneath where I was standing, so overall it was a good choice.
The day started out gorgeously sunny and warm, and the weather held until the first half-dozen cyclists rolled into the piazza toward the stage, where the trophy would be awarded. The clouds burst, then the crowd parted. I was smart enough to actually bring an umbrella, even if it was a thoroughly crappy one. It kept me dry enough to get over to Ginger for a post-race pot of tea, then home again.