Giro d’Italia: 10 great restaurants en route, and places to watch the race
Following a grand cycling tour as part of the press pack can be a gruelling task. You spend lots of time in cars, and most of your nights in cheap and not so cheerful hotels. But to make up for that, there’s always dinner. Lunch is usually a rushed affair, but once the action is finished and the day’s chores have been taken care of, there’s little to do other than find a restaurant and sit over a good meal and a couple of glasses of wine.
The itinerant nature of stage racing, mixed with Italy’s geographical and cultural diversity, means that the Giro d’Italia is constantly introducing you to new places and exciting flavours. The generic idea of the country’s food does its regional delicacies a disservice, and while there’s nothing wrong with a bowl of pasta al pomodoro, far more stimulating regional dishes await anyone willing to put their trust in local traditions.
Sardinia, Stages 1-3
Trattoria Maristella, Alghero
is known for its lamb and its sheep’s cheese, but unless you’re willing to delve into the black market in search of the island’s illegal and much prized casu marzu – a putrid cheese containing cheese-fly larva – then it’s probably best to try the seafood if you’re looking for something uniquely Sardinian. Bottarga, the roe of tuna or mullet that has been sun-dried, salted, and pressed into a block before being grated, is a good place to start.
Trattoria Maristella is somewhat removed from the busiest tourist spots in , but it’s worth the short walk. It promises a menu full of simple, extremely fresh seafood and local specialities, served in an uncomplicated manner, amid plenty of friendly chatter from the natives, who cherish it as a neighbourhood staple. It was described by a Sardinian colleague as being una sicurezza. That might not sound like much when translated (“a security”), but in terms of Italian dining endorsements, it’s the gold standard.
• Mains from €10. Via Fratelli Kennedy 9, Alghero, +39 079 97 81 72, on
Where to watch With its Bronze Age roots and Catalan soul, Alghero’s historic centre is the perfect place to explore in the days before the race, and to enjoy the build up ahead of .
Sicily, Stages 4–5
Rosticceria F.lli Famulari, Messina
both unite and divide the Sicilians. Depending on where you’re from, it’s either spelled as masculine (arancino) or feminine (arancina) and can come as a large sphere or in a conical shape. Either way, they’re delicious. You’ll find plenty of varieties, from pistachio to squid ink, but the classic is a deep-fried cocoon of saffron-flavoured rice, containing a saucy core of meaty ragù. This is the quintessential Sicilian street food, and while there’s no shortage of authentic options, the Rosticceria F.lli Famulari is an institution in two-time Giro winner ’s home town of Messina, where of the race will finish. Don’t let the unpretentious shopfront and fast-food approach to service fool you – this is at its most simple and appetising. A schiacciata messinese, a type of bread stuffed with various fillings, is also worth trying, and for dessert, pick up a balò di ricotta, a provincial speciality that’s similar to a doughnut, filled with a perfumed, sweet cheese.
• From €2. Via Cesare Battisti 143,
Where to watch As far up Etna as you can get on . Downtown Messina on , where the locals should be out in force to welcome their hero.
Southern Italy, Stages 6–8
L’Aratro, Alberobello, Puglia
It’s a wonder that more tourists don’t venture this far south on the mainland, because , and are all beautiful, with unique traditions and an embarrassment of cultural and culinary riches.
Alberobello, the arrival town for , is a Unesco world heritage site and , and their dry-stone, conical roofs. In my experience, you’d be hard pressed to find a bad meal in Puglia. has traditional architecture and a charming garden for dining alfresco. The interior is a mixture of white-washed walls and dark, rustic furniture, and the menu reads like a greatest hits of regional fare. Try the orecchiette – the local pasta that gets its name because it looks like a little ear – but leave room for a tempting plate of grilled lamb. Proximity to the Adriatic Sea also means that fish options abound.
• Mains from €7. Via Monte San Michele 25/29,
Where to watch The Giro doesn’t always make it to the bottom of Italy’s boot, so this year expect plenty of fans wherever you choose to watch the action. Seeing as Alberobello is hosting a finish for the first time, however, the town’s unique character and narrow streets should make for an exciting sprint finish.
Central Italy, Stages 9–10
L’alchimista, Montefalco, Umbria
Picking up where last year’s left off, of this year’s race is one for the oenophiles. The “wine trial” – terrible name, but it seems like it’s sticking – starts in Foligno and finishes in Montefalco, home to one of Italy’s most prized wine designations. Directly across from the 13th-century town hall, L’alchimista is part-wine bar, part-restaurant, offering plenty of Umbrian flavour, with a wide variety of cheeses and cured meats as well as fresh pastas and handmade gnocchi. Bring an appetite.
• Mains from €9. Piazza del Comune 14,
Where to watch The Blockhaus climb debuted in the 50th Giro, back in 1967, when a prodigious young rider named won the first of 64 grand tour stage wins. It’s a beast of a climb, a summit finish, and it’s on on the Sunday before a rest day – this one seems primed for fireworks.
Tuscany, Stage 11
Gelateria Ultimo Kilometro, Buggiano
Because no trip to Italy is complete without gelato… Paolo Fornaciari only won one professional race in his 15-year career, but he was a prized support rider to some of the biggest Italian stars of the 1990s and early 2000s, from Michele Bartoli to Mario Cipollini. What he missed out on while riding his bike, Fornaciari has since made up for in retirement: he became a champion ice-cream maker in 2013 with his “Macho Macho” flavour, a mixture of almonds, marmalade and dark chocolate.
• Via Pistoiese 108,
Where to watch The Apennine mountain range might not be as tall or as famous as its northern counterparts, but the peaks here can still be vicious. begins in Florence, at the home of Giro legend , and finishes in the picturesque spa town of Bagno di Romagna, with what looks like being an exhilarating descent to the finish-line.
Emilia-Romagna, Stages 12–13
Franceschetta 58, Modena