28 August 2015

Cicli Chesini -- the Bicycles of Verona Part 1

After the week in Bolzano and a swing south for some time with family, I began the slow procession toward the SW Paris suburb of St. Quentin-en-Yvelines, the National Velodrome and the start of Paris-Brest-Paris.

My first stop en route was Verona. In 2011, when last in Italy, I had not made it to Verona.  This time, I planned the stop to see the opera in its Roman arena, a summer spectacle that draws fans and the curious from around the world.
The Arena
Sets for Aida waiting outside the arena for tomorrow night
The cheap seats on the steps are always sold out.  Plenty of room below in the expensive, reserved area ...

I booked tickets for Gounod's Romeo and Juliet (yawn -- not as good as Shakespeare or Prokofiev versions of the tale, but still essential for a Verona visit since the story happened here), and Verdi's Aida (an impressive, memorable performance, classic Zeffirelli version, by a composer who was born and lived in Busseto, SW of here).  I was in the cheap seats on the stone steps of the arena. I also planned a visit to Cicli Chesini, whose bicycles are imported and sold in Japan by my friend Hiroshi Koyama of C Speed.
Banks of the Adige River, seen from Ponto Nuovo
The old Ponte Pietra - dates from Roman times 
Bed and Breakfast Agli Scagilieri - in the ancient city
I did very little advance planning, so the delights of Verona were a complete surprise.  I really did not want to leave.  And I want to return, soon.

Steps up the hill beside the Roman Theater, for a good look at the town

One of hundreds of beautiful, inviting entryways
The "ancient city" at the center of Verona is a UNESCO World Heritage site, full of beautiful old streets, outdoor cafes, spectacular churches, and of course structures left over from Roman times -- most notably the Arena and the Roman Theater just across the Adige River. All this is easily walkable (or bike-able). 

I had booked a room at the Bed and Breakfast Agli Scaligieri, which again proved a delightful surprise -- Nadia and Mario being perfect hosts, Nadia whose impeccable taste results in a beautifully decorated building, and who offered extremely helpful advice about the town and the opera, and Mario being a man of many talents -- chef and sommelier, among others.  Mario cooked me an indescribably wonderful breakfast, including a zucchini, cheese and prosciutto omelette and a bread and (ginger-flavored) panna cotta concoction that sent me into ecstasy.  Again, I want to return.
Breakfast ginger flavored panna cotta and crumbly stuff on delicious breads/muffins.

The best zucchini I have had in a long time, on an omelette.
Public area of the B and B
Entry hall for the 3rd floor of the B and B
Photo of Mario and Nadia ... from younger days when he entered the pizza making world championships
The cycling near Verona was great -- on Sunday morning I could head to the WNW and quickly enter the world famous Valpolicella wine region, with plenty of flat areas and endless nearby hills turning into mountains ... all the way to the Dolomites and Alps ... for all the climbing desired. And the Southeastern shores of Lake Garda are only a bit further away than Valpolicella.
I asked to buy a peach here during my ride and was refused -- they would only sell by the case.
So he insisted on giving me a single peach instead of selling it.  Almost like the Japanese countryside?
Neither spoke the other's language, but this simple transaction (turned gift) was easily concluded.
Shade for rest during a ride on a hot day.
As Mario told me when we visited the Villa Mosconi Bertani the following day to taste some Amarone wine, the word "Valpolicella" means "valley (Val-) of many (-poli-) cellars (-cella).  Indeed, the valley is full of wine cellars dating to ancient times.   Bertani's Amarone wine is a direct descendant of the famous 1928 Acinatico wine that Bertani hid from the Germans during WWII and rediscovered in the 1990s.
Villa Mosconi Bertani
Acinatico 1928 - the wine they managed to hide from the grabby Germans,
who were seizing every bottle they could find in Valpolicella
Still VERY drinkable.  A single bottle sold at auction for over $9000.
We are given access to a cellar at a nearby villa. The door could be for a bank vault.
Inside, what treasures lie ... in addition to a long table for tastings?
A 12 liter bottle of Masi 1990 Amarone, for example!
Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) was beautiful, with a nice breeze off the lake and plenty of summer activity!
One photo including bike leaning -- just to prove this was, indeed, a cycling trip!
This area ... would be better as a couple, indeed

Walls of Lazise on Lago di Garda
More Lazise
I guess I should not have been surprised when I finally looked up the Chesini address (Via San Paolo, 8, 37129 Verona) and found that Chesini's facility was only a few minutes' walk from the ancient city and my lodgings.
8, Via San Paolo
View from the Ponte Navi -- less than 100 meters from the Chesini shop, studio and factory!
My lodgings are just near the left end of the next bridge in this photo.
Around the corner from Chesini, from the banks of the Adige River
Chesini seems a perfect fit to Verona, and Verona for Chesini.  Chesini bicycles proudly display the mark "Fatto in Italia" -- Made in Italy.
Steel frame - Made in Italy!
Even a carbon frame - Made in Italy!
But after enjoying the delights of Verona, and seeing the production facility adjacent to the shop on Via San Paolo, I think perhaps they should change these labels to "Fatto in Verona"!  

So many old wooden doors, weathered.
Or recently lacquered
From the Ponte Pietra
In the ancient city
One of many historic churches
Statue of Dante Alighieri - local hero
Flowers in the old city 
So much old stone, so many different colors and textures! 
Verona classic gentleman's bike
Juliet's house -- a popular attraction for couples, her balcony above!
Chesini racing bikes are what Romeo would have ridden if only there had been bicycles in his era. Perhaps if there had been, the competition between Montagues and Capulets would have been resolved through sport rather than swordplay?
Romeo's racing frame?
Chesini's gentlemen's bikes, the Vispula perhaps, would have been ridden by Dante Alighieri, if there had been bicycles in his day.
Dante's gentleman's bike (?) complete with disk brakes, polished fenders, rack and ... flask!
So I eagerly awaited my visit.

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