On the same day one year ago we flew to Italy to follow our dream of running through the country we love. While we were in the village where we were to start our run, we met Christine from Cinque Terre Trekking and she asked “will you run my race next year?”. At the time I said we would be back, but didn’t think it would be in 2017.
In October we started to look at how we might be able to pull this off. Then we had dinner with our friend Brian and he went home and put together a business case which he presented to The Lovely Jo-Anne only minutes after she had returned from a work trip (she was in no mood for ‘flip charts’ at that moment – hahahaha). After a bit more number crunching we were all in. And we were also forbidden from dining with Brian without The Lovely in attendance 😜
And here we are:
Since this is primarily a site about running, I’ll keep the vacation aspect brief and focus on the highlights.
We started our trip in Rome (our favourite city), and only had an afternoon to wander:
We had dinner our favourite restaurant La Botegga del Caffe:
Bright and early on Friday we took the train to La Spezia. Rail service in Italy is the best!
I only have one photo of chocolate filled goodies, but let it be known these were a near daily occurrence, along with cappuccino!
The only plan we had for Friday was to go to the grand opening of the Cinque Terre Trekking shop (they moved to a larger location).
The party had started at the store so it was busy, but we saw Christine and Nicola right away and were greeted with hugs. They are so wonderful!! I am kicking myself for not taking a photo with them, but they were so busy with the store and the party!
When Christine introduced me to the amazing ultra runner Sally McRae and her equally amazing runner daughter (one day ultra I’m sure) Makenzie, I had a serious fangirl moment.
I have followed Sally’s career, blog, and podcast for years and she truly resonates with me. She and her daughter are beautiful people, it was so great to have a few minutes to speak with them!
And this, by the way, was amazing.
For some reason I couldn’t sleep, so early Saturday morning I went out for my run and grabbed cappuccino for everyone.
This was a quiet day for us, the only commitment was the packet pick up and race briefing (details to follow in the race report post!). I wish you could smell through photos. between the wisteria and the orange trees… it’s heaven.
Sunday was race day!! For race details… see post here!
On Monday morning we went our separate ways for a few days. Jo-Anne and Brian went to Verona and Venice, and Steve and I headed back to Courmayeur:
Our airbnb host is a local, and a decendent of the founding family of Courmayeur. He grew up running these mountains and has raced the CCC, UTMB, TDG and this summer will do the TDS. This is some backyard! He shared a training route with us that would take us to 2000m in 5k. 😳
We ate our race kits that night 🙂
We went on a CCC race pilgrimage (not race order, but easy driving order).
Here we are at the CCC finish area, in Chamonix, France:
This is as close as we got to Champex, because I was getting pretty carsick 🙁
And then we were back in Italy
We ate in again and drank our second bottle of ‘race kit’ wine… OMG so yummy!!
On our last day in Courmayeur, we ran around the village and on some of the trails. We didn’t have the time to run the trail that Michele shared with us.
We got back on the road and drove to Verona. Steve and I were only here for a day, so we wanted to check out the following:
This is cacio e pepe. OMG.
After eating all the pasta we could, we got in the car and drove to Lago di Garda – the largest lake in Italy. It was a hazy day, which made the lake even more charming.
There is no parking on the street of our Airbnb, so Steve and I dropped off Jo-Anne and Brian and moved our luggage into the house.
We REALLY need to bush up on our road signs.
We drove the car through here. I was really nervous about this, but Steve convinced me that we would fit. I had the bright idea to pull in the mirrors at least.
Ummm yeah. We got stuck. 😂 Reverse? Nope. Forward? Nope. We are SO LUCKY two women were walking toward us and the one with the reassuring smile gave us the little “to the left” wave and guided us through. There was much shouting of ‘grazie mille!!’ when we were out! Amazingly, not a scratch on the car, only scuffed tires.
We were in good company (FF to 4:15):
We celebrated with food and wine:
We drove to get our race kits and scope out the race start and finish. Hilariously, while Jo-Anne and I were walking around the town a man called out “Una?” He came over an introduced himself: Gian Paolo, the Race Director of the BVG Trail. I was really surprised that he knew who I was! He told us about the race, and pointed out the trail at the top of the mountain. He informed me that there has never been a problem at the race, other than the person they had to rescue and hand-hold across a scary section 😱 That would be me… I was bummed that I was not going to be racing because my Achilles was still tender and tight, and this race had 3450m of elevation over 50k, but also relieved in a sense because I need a hand crossing low bridges 🙂
We had dinner in Garda and WOW it was good. The cheese plate below came with strict instructions to eat in a zigzag pattern, left to right.
On race morning I happened to be in the living room and heard a lot of foot patter – I look out the window and the BVG 25k race ran right by! 🙂
While the boys were racing, Jo-Anne and I explored.
The boys will share their race story if they want 🙂
We were in Lago di Garda for Palm Sunday. Palms here are cut olive branches:
While the boys read and napped and Jo-Anne went for a long walk, I sat outside and had pizza and wine and read my book.
On Monday we returned the car to Verona and took the train back to Rome.
Tuesday we wandered. Steve and I went to the Vatican.
Because it was our first wedding anniversary, we walked over to the Temple Diana, where were were married a year ago.
We reconnected with Jo-Anne and Brian at Piazza Navona and had lunch.
We then popped into a cool looking church.
I zoomed in on the angels – they are painted, but it looks 3D. Incredible.
Because we were nearby, we went to Jo-Anne’s favourite church in Rome, which from the outside, looks nowhere near as cool as the church we were just at:
When you walk in, look up:
Focus on the skylight:
This church has a meridian line!!!
The sun was setting as we made our way to dinner…
We had our last dinner in Italy where we started and then walked back to the apartment, which was across the street from this:
On Wednesday morning when I came back from my last run in Rome they were setting up for Pope Francis’ Good Friday service at the Colosseum, which we witnessed in 2013.
And an hour later, sitting in the backseat of the taxi taking us to the airport, I got stupidly teary as we drove past the Colosseum. J0-Anne smiled and said “we’ll be back”.
"Every time I turn around here, I witness a miracle: wisteria pours up walls; slices of sky show through the high arches of a bell tower; water leaks nonstop from the spouts of a half-sunken marble boat in the Piazza di Spagna. A church floor looks soft as flesh, the skin from a ball of mozzarella cheese tastes rich enough to change my life." Anthony Doerr - Four Seasons in Rome