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Diaries: The beauty of slowing down amid the chaos of a Grand Tour

Robyn Davidson
22 Jun 2022

Tales from Treviso of walkable cobbled streets, welcoming residents and slowing down during my first Giro d’Italia

At the intersection of Via Santa Margherita and Via Sant-Andrea lies a restaurant named the Piccola Osteria Papero Rosso, whose warmth and joy became a glowing feature of my first trip to Italy, and debut covering the Giro d’Italia.

Treviso itself is a remarkable city, one whose origin story boasts the original production of Prosecco and which is now regarded as ‘Little Venice’, a name bestowed because of the multitude of intersecting canals filling the gaps houses and stores couldn’t.

It was during those moments spent sitting outside in the heart of the Province of Treviso that I came to appreciate the beauty of slowing down amid the chaos of a Grand Tour.

A lengthy adrenaline rush kept me awake for over 30 hours as I made my journey to the Giro d’Italia. My mind filled with endless possibilities of both the country and the race itself, as my body could hardly settle.

(I would eventually crash after waking up disoriented and confused at having lost 40km of stage action.)

We reached the glowing paradise of Manchester Airport at 2am. With its ghostly corridors and empty queue lines, I felt trapped in the large building, a liminal space between the two endpoints of England and Italy. Were we destined to be stuck here forever?

Quite possibly, if it were up to Ryanair.

Many hours later and we had been carried above the clouds. Intermittently they dispersed, teasing the grand reveal of a new country below. Jutting mountains, winding streets and importantly, eventually, blue sky.

Cooofe is a small café in the Province of Treviso where you can spoon crema al pistacchio. It was one of our first stops as we ventured out into the city. The staff are lovely, welcoming us frequent visitors with a ‘Buongiorno!’ and an espresso.

And as the clock ticks past midday, the kind waiter will remind you that it’s Aperol Spritz time, but people are invariably seen sipping the orange liquid from 10am onwards.

This is a practice I believe we should very much adopt.

Yet as I took another bite of the croissant in front of me, who should sail past on their Brompton?

It was a joy to catch up with Matt Stephens under the parasol, sun rays beating down, threatening to quickly turn two translucent beings into walking pink advertisements for the cycling race.

Commentary tales and trivia flew from his mouth with ease, his passion pouring into the air. It’s easy to see when someone is in the job they’re destined for. Soon we were joined by Ned Boulting and the pair departed to prepare for a day in the booth.

Throughout our time in Italy, we spent a lot of time at the outdoor tables, drinking coffee and people-watching. The style in Treviso is remarkable. Well-fitted suits, sharp cigarette trousers and crisp shirts. Many complete the outfit with a bike as their accessory and mode of transport around the city.

As someone who generally does not have their shit together, it felt like everyone here did. And I loved it.

But it wasn’t just the clothes. Turn down even the most innocuous-seeming side street and you’re treated to a wealth of ornate architecture.

Jutted stone and open shutters give way to arches, through which can be spied secret gardens of spouting waterfalls and greenery. You might spot a rainbow flag with pace (peace) printed on it, draped from an apartment window, in the wind.

The food produced taste notes that I would never have experienced in my Manchester flat.

Enter: Piccola Osteria Papero Rosso.

Through the decorations of flora and under the glistening string bulb lights lies the Piccola Osteria Papero Rosso.

On our first visit, we were greeted immediately by a waitress who exuded a chaotic lovable energy à la Miranda Hart. The music was somehow a mix of my Spotify playlists and even included the theme tune for Friday Night Dinner (RIP Paul Ritter), a wonderful cacophony that weirdly matched a lot of my interests.

Even next to the bar, shelves of sports books stood tall. A mix that included Phil Jackson’s Eleven Rings, Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby and Andre Agassi’s Open next to a rugby shirt.

It's so intimate that through the archway into the kitchen, you can watch the chef prepare your meal while you sit back and pore over the wine list, inevitably choosing the least expensive rosé.

After mentioning our plans to visit Venice the next day, the staff immediately began pulling out books and compiling restaurant recommendations, one of which we ended up trying for cicchetti. Unsurprisingly, it was beautiful.

It was on the second night there that a moment really touched my heart. The manager brought out some prosciutto that he and his father had been curing for two years.

We drank, we ate and we laughed with them. But importantly, we added them on socials too. We occasionally pass messages commenting on one another’s lives, fashion choices and of course, new food at the restaurant.

I was so thankful for that period of relaxation and reflection on a street in Treviso. It was, to some extent, overwhelming in the media press scrum when you’re running around with a lack of direction (or knowledge and experience from my end) in the absolute chaos of a post-stage peloton.

As a perfectionist, I always judge myself harshly when I feel things could have gone better. After the Treviso stage, they probably could have. But hopefully things will feel easier and come more naturally with more Grand Tour experience.

I don’t think the staff at the Piccola Osteria Papero Rosso knew how much they meant to me, offering friendly faces and a place to relax, but I appreciated it so much.

Grazie <3.

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