The EF Dispatch: When Italy unites at the Giro d’Italia

Like Garibaldi unified the country back in the 19th century, the Giro d’Italia keeps on unifying the country every May

There’s a book that feels like it weighs about five kilos to carry, especially as the 21 days wear on. It’s a daily delivery of schedules, hundreds of town names, some familiar, others less so. An encyclopedia of each town’s history, buildings, landscape. It’s the road book, the race bible, the thing that tells you where the race is going, and how to be there.

 

 

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Giuseppe Garibaldi was born on the 4th July 1807 and became an Italian general helping unify the many states of Italy, creating the Kingdom of Italy, which came under one monarch in 1860. He was considered a modern-day hero and was celebrated far across Europe for his achievements.

 

Dario Esposito, who works for Shift Active Media, a partner of race organizer RCS explains:

 

“Garibaldi is the hero of the unification process of the whole country of Italy and was on the front cover of the centenary edition of the Giro d’Italia road book, and then people started calling the book by the name of the hero on its front cover, Garibaldi. And so it began.”

 

“Pass me the Garibaldi.”

 

“Where is the Garibaldi?”

 

“Let’s check on the Garibaldi”

 

“It’s also very symbolic, because like Garibaldi unified the country back in the 19th century, in a very similar way the Giro d’Italia keeps on unifying the country every May.”

 

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As we explore Italy over three weeks, we move from region to region, noticing the subtle differences in cuisine, sampling each region’s method of creating what they consider the perfect pasta dish. How to pair it with wine, imploring that there are rules to stick too when it comes to eating the Italian way. No cappuccino after 11 am, noon absolute latest, and only sometimes. Grating Parmesan cheese over vegetables receives an inquisitive look. Parmesan is for pasta.

 

When it comes to food, Italians speak one language. Food must be made with the freshest ingredients, recipes handed down over generations become guarded secrets. And be prepared to eat four courses at every lunch and dinner. Antipasti first, followed by pasta then meat or fish and rounded off with dessert and coffee.

 

And while food is a singular language that unites Italy, it’s somewhat surprising that the Italian language does not. Moving from one side of the country to another, from south to north local parlance changes so much the Italian people can struggle to understand one another.

 

In the north, one of the biggest distinctions is turning on the TV and noting that the local commentary for the bike race has switched from Italian to German. From one mountain range to another dialects can change alongside landscape. Most dialects are thought to be maintained by the elder generations but that’s not always the case; in the Veneto area young generations are keeping them alive, not allowing them to fall into inexistence.

 

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As the 102nd Giro d’Italia concludes, the existence of this race is still going strong. The ‘tifosi’, the name given to Italian fans in reference to their fevered manner of support, still come to the roadside united together to watch this sporting procession around their country. It’s a race that cultivates stories, some that will make it into Il Garibaldi, because if there’s one thing the Garibaldi is good for, is making sure that people and stories don’t get lost.

 

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