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Red Deer

Todayville Travel: Spring in Italy Part 2

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Second in the two-part series ‘Spring in Italy’.

“My head was down, focused on my churning bicycle pedals and the relentless climb up a twisting cobblestone road. What was I doing here? I’m not even fond of biking.”

The Most Serene Republic of San Marino is located smack dab in the middle of Italy. At 62 sq. km. it is one of the smallest nations in the world. Although only a few dozen kilometers from Italy’s Adriatic Coast, San Marino’s summit is almost 800 meters above sea level. And crowning this mountainous micro-state is the medieval Fortress of Guaita. My destination.

But I wasn’t looking up. My head was down, focused on my churning bicycle pedals and the relentless climb up a twisting cobblestone road. What was I doing here? I’m not even fond of biking.

I needed the exercise. We had been in Italy for almost two weeks and had yet to actually earn any of the fabulous meals we had devoured.

It was a tough three-hour slog to San Marino’s pinnacle – but an easy glide back down to the coastal town of Riccione, and the Belvedere Hotel where we were ensconced for four nights. The Belvedere is a “biker’s” hotel. Marina Pasquini, the proprietress, is a dynamic effervescent woman. Marina exudes the qualities of both caring mother and astute businesswoman. Her staff love her – and feed off her magnetism. This osmotic energy carries through to the guests – who are treated like family.

Marina is a wonderful cook. So after a gruelling 70-kilometre ride, I felt justified in accepting a second helping of her traditional Friday night paella. Marina is also an observant woman (I wouldn’t try stealing any silverware from the Belvedere). When we checked in she noted I was toting a ukulele:

“Would you like to play at lunch this afternoon? You’ll be biking up to a farmhouse and winery in the hills.”

“I can’t carry the ukulele on my bicycle,” I replied.

“Don’t worry, we can bring it up for you,” she said happily. “It will be wonderful.”

How could I say no?

Marina and her Friday night paella

“…I enjoyed driving in Italy. Despite their crazy reputation, I found Italian drivers really get it (unlike some folks piloting cars on Alberta’s highways)…”

On the ride up my wife Florence had bike problems. Her chain kept falling off. Our guide Dani-boy was nonchalant and pleasantly attended to each messy repair. When we arrived at the farmhouse his hands were black with grease.

Thanks Dani!

During lunch I scoured my brain for an appropriate tune to entertain a group of bicycle aficionados in the Rimini hills of Italy. After a four-course meal, a sweet dolce and plenty of vino di casa, the group was rambunctious. I tentatively plinked the ukulele.

An exhausted Gerry enjoys the view from the summit of San Marino

My truncated version of Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore” went over well.

Then I recounted Florence’s bike chain maladies by singing (with apologies to the Beatles):

“Chain, my baby’s got a tangled-up chain,

And it ain’t the kind, that you can cl-e-e-e-an,

But Dani-boy, fixed her chain for me. Yeah.”

The crowd went wild. Bike enthusiasts can be real nerds.

Dani-boy had a genuine tear in his eye. Despite their hot-blooded temperament, Italians can be surprisingly sentimental.

On our last Belvedere morning, as we checked out, the skies opened up. Disheartened cyclists, decked out in jerseys from around the world, sat and scanned the dreary sky. The ride was off for the day. Rain, steep narrow roads, zany Italian drivers and over-enthusiastic bicyclists do not mix well.

Marina was in the foyer to bid us arrivederci, offering a genuine hug – and a request that we soon return.

We were off to Tuscany, the final leg of our month-long stay in Italia. The GPS indicated that our AirBnb in Lucca was three hours away. But as per our usual modus operandi we took the road less travelled and turned what should have been a short jaunt into a seven-hour odyssey through the twisting narrow country roads and unsurpassable beauty of Tuscany.

The road less traveled

I enjoyed driving in Italy. Despite their crazy reputation, I found Italian drivers really get it (unlike some folks piloting cars on Alberta’s highways). I survived a month driving in Italy without incident: no fender-benders on narrow cobblestone streets, no roundabout collisions – and not one Italian offered a gesticulation as to where I might go and procreate.

However… it will be a miracle if the post office doesn’t eventually deliver a slew of photo-radar tickets and one-way street infractions. It is not an understatement to suggest that compliance with Italian driving laws is impossible. And Italian roads require super-human navigating skills. Florence (and our GPS) performed admirably – we were lost fewer than a dozen times.

When we arrived in Lucca our hostess met us outside the town walls, helped us park and escorted us to her lovely apartment in the heart of the Old City. (Our AirBnb experience throughout Italy was amazing. Our hosts were uniformly friendly, helpful – and available. Many even stocked the fridge with Italian delights for our arrival.)

Lucca

One fine afternoon we signed up for a wine-tasting tour in the famous Brunello region of Montalcino, near Sienna. En route we passed vineyard after vineyard, interrupted only by ancient olive groves. And it seemed every Tuscan hill was topped by an alluring fairytale-like village – with stone spires guarding the verdant fields of Italian spring.

“Mario loves making vino, his passion for sixty years. He has a certain – pardon my French – joie de vivre.”

Mario Ciacci is the octogenarian who founded and still oversees Abbadia Ardenga winery – although these days Mario’s role seems limited to entertaining customers, dancing with the lady guests – and sipping a little of his own beautifully-aged Brunello. He proudly walked us through the vintner’s process – and his priceless cellar – before serving us a simple lunch coupled with a multitude of his Abbadia vintages.

Mario Ciacci woos the ladies – when not making wine

Mario loves making vino, his passion for sixty years. He has a certain – pardon my French – joie de vivre. Mario is also a seasoned salesman; in addition to my traffic tickets, any day now we’re expecting an overseas shipment of Brunello wine.

After three nights in Lucca and four in Sienna we moved on to Orvieto for our final few Italian nights. In each of these towns the itinerary was simple: explore the narrow, confusing streets of the city core for a day, then hop in the car and tour the surrounding countryside for a couple of days.

Ponte Della Madallena near Lucca

“The gold-gilded façade of the Duomo is spectacular at sunset.”

All of these walled cities have their unique character but Orvieto is perhaps the most charming – and interesting. Built atop a flat butte of volcanic tuff, the town has remained impregnable for millennia. Its high walls provide a natural defense that could not be breached. The city was also immune to enemy siege. Water was drawn from the ingeniously designed well of San Patrizio and food literally flew in through the windows: the people farmed pigeons. Thus both food and water were readily available without leaving the protection of the fortress.

Orvieto is home to one of Italy’s most striking Gothic cathedrals. The gold-gilded façade of the Duomo is spectacular at sunset. And beneath the streets an ancient labyrinth of tunnels was carved into the tuff, designed for quick escape. (Perhaps flight from this siege-proof city would have been necessary had Orvieto been infiltrated by stool pigeons?)

Duomo in Orvieto

We’ve been home for some time now and the traffic tickets have yet to arrive – but I take solace in the fact that when they do there will be a hearty glass of Brunello at hand to ease the pain.

If you go: The Belvedere Hotel specializes in hosting bike enthusiasts from around the world.

Gerry Feehan QC practised law in Red Deer for 27 years before starting his second life as a freelance travel writer and photographer. He says that, while being a lawyer is more remunerative than travel writing, it isn’t nearly as much fun. When not on the road, Gerry and his wife Florence live in Red Deer and Kimberley, BC. Todayville is proud to work with Gerry to re-publish some of his most compelling stories from his vast catalogue developed over more than a decade of travel.

Gerry Feehan

THANKS to these great partners for making this series possible.

 

Read about Gerry’s adventures in Hawaii

Enjoy an excellent adventure in Texas.  Click below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Community

ZED Haunted House opens for another season of scares this week!

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Zed haunted house

From Youth HQ

Date: Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Event: PREVIEW NIGHT – Zed Haunted House
Place: 7414 50th Avenue, Red Deer (Former GoAuto location)
Time: 7:00pm-9:00pm

Once again Red Deer’s Most Fatal Attraction will open its doors for two weeks to entertain all ages during the Halloween season. The 29th Annual Zed Haunted House presented by Border Paving runs from October 16th through October 31st at the former GoAuto location in Red Deer. This year’s theme is “You’re Never Alone in the Dark” and promises to be a scream.

The event runs each evening during the event from 6:00pm to 10:00pm, with special feature evenings throughout the event. General admission is $15 at the door, with priority entry “Spook Pass” admissions available for purchase online for $20. Group passes (minimum 10 attendees) are also available in advance by calling or visiting Youth HQ.

Afternoon matinees, geared to children under 10 years of age, occur on Saturday and Sunday during the event’s run from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. Other feature nights include Freaky Friday (October 18), Date Night (October 19), Friday Fright Night (October 25), the Saturday Spooktacular (October 26), Wicked Wednesday (October 30), and a special trick-or-treat edition on All Hallows Eve (October 31).

Midnight Madness returns again this year, sponsored by CARSTAR Red Deer, on Friday, October 25. Running from midnight-2am, the cast prepares to reopen the Haunted House and ups the scare factor. This show is restricted to attendees 18+, with general admission tickets $20 at the door.

John Johnston, Community Engagement Manager for Youth HQ, says the effort put forth by a team of dedicated volunteers has been incredible. “We wouldn’t be able to put on this event without the countless hours of dedication from our volunteers. Between building walls, painting, character training…you name it. The dedication of some really skilled people has made this a success already.”

Volunteers have been busy building the spectacle since late September. We want to acknowledge the numerous returning sponsors for their continued support, including:

  • Zed 98.9 FM
  • Border Paving
  • True Line Homes
  • SERVUS Credit Union
  • G-Force Graphics
  • Herc Rentals
  • CARSTAR Red Deer
  • Cooper Roofing
  • Sunbelt Rentals
  • Spirit Halloween
  • Sound Travels

Thank you also to the more than 30 other business who are friends and supporters of the event, including the several restaurants who support our cast by providing meals throughout the course of the event.

Boys and Girls Club of Red Deer and District thanks the community for their continued support of this event. This year’s fundraising goal is $90000, with 100% of proceeds from the Zed Haunted House go to support the ongoing year-round programming of the clubs in 9 communities in central Alberta.

 

About Boys & Girls Club of Red Deer and District

Boys and Girls Club provides fun after school and out-of-school programs and activities to give young people the opportunities to develop their potential and achieve their dreams. As youth develop positive, healthy relationships with peers, role models and family members, they can become the best versions of themselves and develop into the leaders of tomorrow. Boys and Girls Club of Red Deer and District was started in 1983, and currently serves over 900 youth in 9 communities around central Alberta.

 

About Youth HQ

Youth HQ empowers youth by fostering a community of support. Our network seeks to instill young people with confidence in their unique identities and abilities, providing them with skills for life through knowledge, healthy relationships, and quality experiences while providing safe environments to learn and grow. Youth HQ coordinates programming for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Red Deer & District and Boys and Girls Club of Red Deer & District, offering numerous programs and services that support children, youth and families.

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Crime

Red Deer RCMP Warn Public of High Risk Offender

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Oct. 10, 2019

Red Deer RCMP Warn Public of High Risk Offender

Red Deer, Alta. – In the interest of public safety, Red Deer RCMP are issuing the following information and warning in regard to the release of Daniel Leonard from Provincial custody, upon completion of his sentence for public indecency.

Daniel Leonard (42), of Red Deer, is described as:

  • Caucasian male
  • 183cm (6’ 0”) and 93kg (195lbs)
  • Bald, known to have both facial hair and be clean shaven
  • Brown eyes.

Daniel Leonard has been convicted of multiple offences of sexual assault and indecent exposure against females.

The RCMP is issuing this information and warning after careful deliberation and consideration of all related issues, including privacy concerns, in the belief that it is clearly in the public interest to inform the members of the community of the release of Daniel Leonard.

Members of the public are advised that the intent of the process is to enable members of the public to take suitable precautionary measures and not to embark on any form of vigilante action. Anyone believing that a crime has been or is about to be committed is encouraged to call police. If the matter is felt to be of an urgent nature, please call 911 to report the location and circumstances.

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october, 2019

wed16oct6:00 pm11:00 pmBusiness of the Year Awards - Red Deer Chamber of Commerce6:00 pm - 11:00 pm Red Deer College

thu17oct6:30 pm8:30 pmACRYLIC POUR ART CLASSES6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

fri18oct7:00 pmLip Sync Battle7:00 pm MT Bo's Bar & Grill, 2310 50 Ave Event Organized By: The Outreach Centre

sat19oct9:00 am4:00 pmCoats 4 Kids & Charity Checkstop9:00 am - 4:00 pm Taylor Drive Event Organized By: The Central Alberta Crime Prevention Page

sat19oct10:00 am12:00 pmRed Deer River Naturalists Bird Focus Group Walk10:00 am - 12:00 pm MST Kerry Wood Nature Centre, 6300 45 Ave Event Organized By: Red Deer River Naturalists

sat26oct10:00 am12:00 pmRed Deer River Naturalists Bird Focus Group Walk10:00 am - 12:00 pm MST Maskepetoon Park Event Organized By: Red Deer River Naturalists

tue29oct(oct 29)1:00 amsun03nov(nov 3)1:00 amCanadian Finals Rodeo1:00 am - (november 3) 1:00 am Westerner Park, 4847A-19 Street

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