Tag Archives: Italy

Get out the door: Where to Run in Sicily

Running in Sicily is a lot like running in the U.S., except when it’s not. First, you have to decide where to run: by the sea? up the mountain? in the river valley?

By the sea:

Very few established paths, and none that link up to create a run of a distance over 6 miles, unless you drive down to the beaches south of Catania. For me, I either have to run down the mountain to the sea (which means running back UP the mountain on the return), or drive up or down the coast to reach the sea.

Up the Mountain:

Great options, as long as I am willing to work for the views…I can go for miles and miles and never get bored with Mt. Etna on the west always beckoning me higher and the Ionian Sea on the east flirting and winking at me until I return home.

In the river valley:

This essentially means running on base or near base to me. Both options are great – on base, there is a loop that can be modified to make a 5-mile, 6-mile, or 7-mile loop. Running along the highway by base is pretty much an out-and-back situation, at least of the routes I know now. On the weekend mornings, there are always packs of bicycles whizzing by and giving friendly encouragement; umbrella girls dot the highway; and Italian drivers whiz by as well.

I find running on the roads here to be slightly more nerve-wracking than in the states, but only by a fraction, and part of that might be due to my perception of safety.

Drivers in the U.S. go out of their way to show you that they see you:

US Drivers_Running

Drivers on Sicily are typically very aware of their surroundings, including just how close they can get to any other object without striking it (the narrow roads, and closely parked cars offer lots of opportunities to learn this lesson), so they don’t bother getting so far away from you:

Sicilian Drivers_Running1

Sincerely, I am more comfortable with a Sicilian driver passing me so close that I could reach out and touch the vehicle. For all the pazzo (crazy) in the driving over here, Sicilian drivers act predictably and they are much more aware of their surroundings and aware of the size and capability of their vehicle than the average U.S. driver. But, it took some getting used to!

As I adjusted to the Sicilian drivers, I became more comfortable on the roads, by the sea, up the mountain and in the river valley. And, as Jenny Barringer Simpson says, “If you just give yourself a chance and get out the door, your mind and body will surprise you most of the time.”

Happy running!

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Filed under 5-100, Running

Time for a new Papa

Tonight the Catholic cardinals chose a new pope, or “Il Papa” as they call him here in Italy.

whitesmokepope
Source.

We are watching live television coverage, awaiting to know the nationality of the new Papa as well as the name he chooses. It will be interesting to watch the changes the new papal leadership has on Italy. Meanwhile, the Italian newscasters are passing time much the same as they likely are around the world, discussing the presumed front runners, making vague statements about the consequences of each front runner being elected, and discussing mundane details such as “Where will the new Papa sleep toight?” Surely not in the pontiff’s apartment already?!!

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Casa di Jill-o

Just when you thought there wasn’t an affordable B&B in the Catania metro region, you read this review of Casa di Jill-o. The house features a modern guest room complete with USA themed cat cover on the bed, wooden slatted shutters for sensory deprivation leading to the best sleep of this year (if not your life), and errant cat hair that the numerous cleanings prior to your arrival did not completely eliminate.


Authentic Afghanistan souvenir.


Dark or bright – your choice!

If this description alone isn’t enough, just think of the box shower that makes you feel tiny! It is completely different from the U.S. propaganda showers designed to make you feel fat all the time. This shower looks incredibly small, and at less than 1 meter diagonal, it IS small! The narrow door openings (which barely let your shoulders and hips fit through at an angle) add to the barriers that help you enjoy feeling really tiny once you are inside and realize you can take an entire shower without banging into the plastic shower box walls…if you are very careful. For those who do touch up against the walls, do not worry, the signora of Casa di Jill-o regularly washes the walls with a light bleach mixture sure to disinfect any nastiness.


Seriously, this is my shower.

Rise up the slightly creaky spiral staircase to the upper level for stunning views of Mt. Etna and the Ionian Sea.


Mt. Etna
November 2012


Ionian Sea (Mediterranean Sea is to the south)
November 2012

The Ionian touches the lips of the Mediterranean a mere 120 kilometers south of Catania, and it enjoys the same shimmering blue waters and warm currents that Italian and French Riviera visitors rave about. You can even go swimming in early November!

Friends, family, lesser-known-acquaintances, don’t hesitate, start looking for airfares now and reach out to Casa di Jill-o to book your next trip to Sicily!

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Filed under Awesomeness

Roma in the rain with my parents

No, this isn’t the solution for a game of Clue.

Instead, it is the title for a quick blog post with highlights from our visit to Rome last weekend with my parents. Enjoy the photos!


Skip the Line Vatican Tour
Roma
October 2012


Piazza di San Pietro
Roma


First-ever hop-on/hop-off tour
Results invalid
Roma


Yay! Can’t wait for the premiere!
No celebrities sighted.


New favorite Italian wine.
New great memory with Mom.


Romance and coin throwing at a rainy Fontana di Trevi
Roma


Fontana di Trevi
Details – Sharon & John


Enjoying the Pantheon with Dad
Roma


Never fails to impress.
One of my favorite sights in Roma.


We passed by the Trevi Fountain again the next day. Weather report was 100% chance of rain at this moment in time. Glad we didn’t heed the weather report! What a glorious day.


Two world travelers chatting at a charming doorway in Rome.


Celebrating Mom’s 60th birthday a few days early. Happy Birthday Mama!

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Marathon Report: Lago di Garda, Lake Garda International Marathon

And the beat goes on…

La-da-da-da-da DEE…

Some things are so precious that I just want to sit and linger a moment over the memory. For me, running the marathon in Lago di Garda is one of those precious things. I wrote and re-wrote blogposts about the Lake Garda Marathon in my head, but when I went to commit those words to computer, something else seemed more important.


Lago di Garda, Italia
October 2012

My route to Lago di Garda consisted of a midnight arrival in Milan, a quick car rental pick-up and hotel breeze-by, then the drive to the lake. As I drove away from Malpensa airport in Milan, I felt a quickening in my stomach at each thought of the marathon. The steady city traffic did little to dull my nerves, but as I neared Brescia, the scenery started to distract me. Foothills were rising out of the mist and fog, and traffic was thinning. As I went headlong into a mountain tunnel, I imagined myself beginning the long journey of the marathon. Minutes later, I emerged from the tunnel to the stunning beauty of Lago di Garda.

Arriving at the southwestern edge of the lake, I followed the road north to Limone sul Garda. Limone is the quaint town where the race started and where I chose to find a hotel – the Villa Elite. This hotel is family owned and operated, with staffers who embody the Northern Italian personality while managing to exude a welcoming graciousness. The breakfast was generous and served in a charmingly cozy dining room at the main hotel. I was in one of the newer buildings, and the view to the lake was more than breath-taking. With the cool October temperatures, I merely daydreamed about spending a hot summer day in the well-kept pool just outside my hotel room door.


View from Villa Elite hotel, Limone sul Garda, Italia
October 2012

Limone sul Garda defines picturesque! Here is the conference center where the marathon registration took place.

The anticipation was strong, but as I was traveling on my own, I had to be strong enough to get myself to the starting line. After checking into the hotel and completing my registration, I ambled down from my hotel to the lake, tested the waters for fun, and then logged my last training run of 2 miles. I trekked back up to the hotel (about ten minute walk), showered and ventured out to eat dinner. After this, my preparations at the hotel consisted of listening to music, writing down any thoughts that were distracting me, and getting to bed early. Pleasantly, I drifted off to sleep around 10pm.

Marathon day dawned brisk and slightly overcast. I consistently checked the weather through the curtains as I prepared my gear bag, got dressed, and mentally braced myself for the day. I left my hotel room around 8am, walked ten minutes or so over to the starting line and chucked my gear bag in the appropriate bin. The excitement was palpable and runners were everywhere. I was taking care of my final fueling, and final bathroom breaks until I joined the queue. After jovial chit-chat from the announcer, and much shuffling among the ranks, many of us ditched our final layer of clothing and settled in for the race. With the crack of the starting pistol, we headed across the start line and away from Limone sul Garda.


Starting point, Lake Garda Marathon
Limone sul Garda, Italia
October 2012

I had a plethora of running advice swirling around my head and I put it to good use. I felt strong and able as I plowed through the first half-dozen miles. The path hugged the lake, but inevitably traversed several mountain tunnels that obscured satellite reception, rendering my Garmin pacing watch slightly more than useless. I was able to guesstimate my pace, though I continued to focus on how I was feeling as the roadway undulated under my feet.

Soon enough, the path curved away from the lake toward the village of Arco. I ran alongside vineyards and farms, through tiny neighborhoods with warm-hearted townsfolk cheering me (and the others). Still feeling strong, I pushed through my first signs of fatigue and made it to the halfway point on pace to hit my target time. This push and pull between longevity and fatigue became a soothing rhythm. Fatigue was never far away, but preparation, training and determination were keeping me on target as the route meandered back toward the lake, in the direction of the final destination, Malcesine.

This upbeat experience continued until my first panic attack around mile 20. The race is marked in kilometers, and I was focusing on each segment so much that I wasn’t tracking the miles distinctly. Yet, I could describe the corner where my emotions began to rise in my throat, where I felt the exuberance that should have waited for race completion, and where my pace began to take a nosedive. Though I had known that marathoning is 90% mental and 10% physical, I had never trained for mitigating extreme joy during my run.

As I bent over to catch my breath, I thought quickly of the six or so miles between me and the finish that was bringing me to my knees prematurely. Almost as quickly, I redirected my focus to taking the next step forward, and then picking my heels up and bringing my pace back to speed. I successfully refocused in a matter of moments, but my pace never fully recovered. “Fuck!” came out of my mouth several times as I struggled to stay focused in the moment. Though I took only two more walking breaks, I still added twenty-three minutes to the second half of the race. At one point, I vowed never to waste my time training for a marathon again.

The route began to descend into the center of Malcesine and I knew the end was near. I dug deep and picked up my feet just a little more. About 200m from the finish, I saw two small children dart out into the finisher’s chute to cross the finish line with their father, who was just ahead of me. Tears burned to the corners of my eyes and I puffed over the finish line to a final hyperventilation at the benches on the other side. After catching my breath, the desire to cry remained. I seeped tears of joy, disappointment, relief, and dismay all at once.

The organization of the race was seamless and I easily recovered my gear bag and found the shower facilities. With a freshly washed face and clean clothes, my sense of self was renewed. I wandered through Malcesine’s historic center to the ferry booth and pondered my next marathon. Would I really be crazy enough to train for another? Only time would tell, but as I waited to board the ferry that would take me back to Limone sul Garda, I felt the undeniable buzz from the crowd. This buzz is an uplifting force that taps into my soul and thrills me to no end.

After a stunning ride across Lago di Garda, I trekked up the hill to the Villa Elite amidst mental race review and dinner plans. The throngs of racers returning to their hotels thinned and finally faded to only one. As I turned away from her and into my hotel, I was again alone. I cracked open my hotel room door and was overcome with emotion as I spied celebratory flowers awaiting me.


Dave’s Flowery Congratulations

I looked down at the medal hanging around my neck; lemons, olives, runners, mountains, lakes, and me.

Limone sul Garda had bewitched me; and, even as I bemoaned my time, I was also relishing the strength and fortitude I had displayed along the way. I shook my head as a huge grin spread across my face; no matter the time, I would always be able to say “I Did It!”


Limone sul Garda, Italia
Lake Garda Marathon, F81
October 2012

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What’s a little rain when you’ve just completed a marathon?

90% chance of rain all day. I am 100% glad it is raining like this the day-After the marathon.

Making the most of the day wandering around town with my Frankensteinesque gait. Will give the full marathon report later this week when I have full Internet & computer access.

For now, know that it went really well, I am really sore and I had a exquisite celebratory dinner with Monica, Mark, Sandy and Jim in Marona di Valpolicella.

I am off to enjoy more views like this:

20121015-110802.jpg
Limone sul Garda, Italia
October 2012

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No toilet seats, even up north

Sometimes I realize that I have acclimated sufficiently that I am not really sharing certain things on the blog. Today’s travel reminded me that it would be surprising to many readers that this is an example of a wonderful bathroom here in Italy.

20121013-104121.jpg

Totally clean, well kept, toilet paper (and sinks have soap and hand dryer, too).

Yet no toilet seat.

I am just outside Milano, and I guess even up north, they don’t give you a toilet seat! Va bene (it’s all good).

Ciao

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