Off to Corsica - riding, eating and drinking.

Polignano

We’re off to Corsica tomorrow, not chasing a race, just riding, eating and drinking. Consequently this story is all about olive oil, and wine, and the purchasing of such items.

As we are based in the heartland of wine and olive oil production, we’ve always tried to buy such items in bulk, or ‘sfuso’, refilling our own recycled water bottles. It hasn’t always been as easy as it sounds, as inevitably we pass the ‘sfuso’ sale places while on our bikes, and consistently fail to return, with bottles ready to go. Years ago, when I lived in Lenola, a small town south of Rome, I rented an apartment, that was supposed to be ‘self contained’. On arrival I found it was equipped with three coat hangers, and not much else. When I reported to the owners that I needed something to cook with, the Nonna immediately disappeared into a hidden cave, promptly returning brandishing a large bottle of olive oil. Obviously this was the primary requisite, before pots, pans, dishes, cutlery etc. For the next three months I was gifted olive oil and red wine from friends in the local cycling fraternity, as long as I returned the original glass vessel, clean. It was convenient, simple and humbled me, as none of the group lived a high life, but they all placed great emphasis on ensuring their Australian guest wanted for nothing.

However...
After our Tour of Sicily finished, MBW, Betty and I enjoyed a few days in Puglia (think Achilles heel on the Italy leg) on the Adriatic sea. The house we holidayed in had a wood-fired outdoor pizza oven and grill, set apart by marble benches. I’d never used a pizza oven before, so had a great time making pizza bases, cooking up pizzas, a beef roast, scampi and even hamburgers.

As we returned home to the north, we were due for a stop in Lenola, not far from the Mediterranean coast, at 500 metres above sea level, and as I had experienced, home to excellent olive oil. We were keen to buy 5, 10 or even 20 litres of oil to take home. As we drove through Vallecorsa, an adjacent town, also laying claim to be a ‘City of Oil’ on it’s town sign, we searched for ‘olive oil for sale’ signs. We could not find one, and it was the same in Lenola. At dinner that night with friends we raised the topic, laughing about the ‘Citta d’Olio’ signs. Our companions were aghast at our stupidity. Why David, you only had to stop and ask someone, and if they didn’t sell olive oil, they would introduce you to a neighbour who did! How could we be so silly? EVERYONE has gallons of olive oil, apparently.

Later, during the meal, everyone at the table confided to me separately, that they knew who had the best oil in town, and I was to come and see them tomorrow. We eventually purchased five litres of oil at 7 euro a litre, and ten litres of Montepulciano Rosso at 1.80 euro a litre, from the same supplier. While we were deliberating, thinking hard about our wine choices, locals made hurry, quickly running in and out, making their standard purchases.

Looking at the price difference up and down the peninsula, it appears that while olive oil is more expensive in the north, wine is cheaper. Our town of Marone on Lake Iseo, produces olive oil, but at 25 euro a litre, we rarely buy it. Reportedly, the best oil locally is from the island in the middle of the lake, Monte Isola, and sells for more than 30 euro a litre. In Bergamo you can buy Ligurian oil at 12 euro a litre, if you know where to shop... NB these are all ‘sfuso’ prices.

Onto wine, and ONE euro a litre is not uncommon in the north, for a Montepulciano (or another) red. Occasionally it will be 1.10 or 1.20, and I’m sure if you went into Milano you could pay more, but rurally it is cheap. And good!

In Corsica the standard drink is Rose, and since we did our reccy tour there last year, I have developed a penchant for a lighter wine. I’m keen to find out what Corsican Rose sfuso sells for.

And now, as I write this, after enjoying a plate of olive oil with every meal, that gets mopped up with thick chunks of bread, all I can ponder is ‘why only 5 litres???’


Polignano - PugliaRide Report

Well, I haven’t ridden a lot since arriving here, lots of prep to be done, and many other excuses to boot. Might have cracked 150k (in total) on the weekend. My third ride. Meanwhile in the first month in Europe I’ve just clocked up 5000k in the car... not so glorious this job, is it? But then, what is? Like to be a Team DS (Director Sportiff)? One of those guys who spend a lot of time behind the wheel, yelling into a radio while weaving up the road at 40-50k an hour. They all drive 10,000+k a month. Most team cars clock up 100,000k per year. That’s a lot of hours behind the wheel. Couple that with spending up to 300 nights a year away from home, and a lot of shine is removed from that job. And what of the journos, who, let’s say, follow the Tour de France? Ask Mike Tomalaris how many k’s he rides every July, and while I don’t know for sure, I’ll guess a fat zero. He’s on our mailing list, let’s see if we get a response.

Even if it doesn’t happen all that often, when I do get out for a ride, it is always pure quality. And for the record, I do love my job.

Photos

Top: (my) girls on the beach - south of Polignano a Mare - Puglia
Right: I reckon I can do a bomb off here - Polignano a Mare town centre - Puglia

No photo of Betty this week, apologies for those who opened this just to see one.

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