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Italia PEZ: Stranger in a Strange Land
Maybe it’s a mid-life sorta thing. I wouldn’t call it a ‘crisis’, but I’m sure a lot of you can relate to ‘pulling the trigger’ on some long-time grand dream you’ve had. For me it’s been spending more time in Italy, and that time is now… PEZ Worldwide HQ has relocated. Sort of…

Ever since my last trip here with the lovely Mrs. Pez in 2004, we’ve been plotting a comeback of more serious duration. Fast forward six years and we’ve checked a bunch of major’s off the “To Do” list:

1. Get married – check
2. Buy house – check
3. Start family – check

Nothing like a twilight view of the Adriatic from the hills above Fano.

So with a little breathing room after some busy years, it was high time to step back and do something a little more on the ‘lifestyle’ side. For us, that’s been spending more time in Italy – my own unofficial ‘homeland’ and place of my favorite bike race, and birth place of Mrs. Pez’s parents and ancestors.

Everything tastes better here.

After about 3 years of the discussions and planning, we finally touched down on terra Italia last Friday, ready for six weeks of living like the locals do – or at least like a bunch of foreigners pretending to be locals. With Mrs. Pez still on maternity leave, and my own good fortune of portable work, the time was perfect for us to pack up more than a reasonable number of suitcases, strap on our two girls (4 years, and 6 months), and buckle in for what we expect to be the adventure of a lifetime.

And so far so good – on the adventure part. Cross-planet travel is never easy, what with volcanic activity, multiple time zones, and young children all being what they are.

Fano Ho!
After landing and over-nighting in Florence, our first stop is a week in Fano on the Adriatic coast. Hometown of PEZ-Man Alessandro Federico – who’s been ‘highly recommending’ a visit since we first met in 2004. Fano dates to about 49 BC, and was originally settled by the Romans, who built the famed via Flaminia (sort of the the first cross-Italy highway) to connect the emperor with his favorite spa here in Fano. Via Flaminia is still in use today, although with a much better surface – and is popular with cyclists in the region because of its low traffic.

Although the wide, pristine beaches make for a wall to wall crush of sunscreen drenched vacationers in July and August, this being a port city also means much fishing activity, and a thriving yacht building industry. Ale’s ‘real’ job is in the marine biz as an engineer for a company that runs several very large and ocean-going shipping vessels.

Our first day in Fano welcomed us with a trifecta of beach sports including board sailing with the vigorous winds that blow in from Russia...

… a rockin’ Quad-fest that reminded me of my days as a teenaged motocrosser…

… and seadoo races.

Any drive along Italy’s major autostradi should include a stop at the “Autogrill” – which can only be described as an Italian version of what most North American’s know as a ‘truck stop’… the key difference is that they’re pretty much polar opposites in every way –

…Except that they exist in parallel – and completely opposite – worlds. The bigger Autogrills channel you through a cornucopia of Italian products – anything the weary traveler desires - from cheeses, to wines, to salamis and prosciuttos.

This may be a personal record – two complete PEZ families and 4 negronis at one table. Ale’s daughter Diana gets photo creds.

About the only thing that’s been a problem was getting connected to the internet. Like everything Italian, there’s always a way to do it, but navigating the multiple levels of instruction deter only the most persistent. And here’s where tapping into local knowledge is a must – as Ale saved me from pulling out several clumps of my own hair – by hooking me up with his company’s IT department to sort out my troubles.

This required an 830AM meeting at Ale’s office, which also meant a chance to tag along with Ale on his daily walk to work – which itself was a revealing slice of la vita italiana.

Ale’s home is literally just meters from a port full of fishing boats, and about a 15 minute walk to his office in the center of the old town – inside the ancient walls that once protected the city from invaders.

The Italians love to use facial expressions to convey emotion. My daughter Alessa seems to be quite clear on her feelings for the fresh octopus.

His route passes directly through the morning market (on Wednesday & Saturday mornings), which conveniently allows time to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, plus anything else he might need from the vast assortment of vendors.

The fresh fish catch lands Tuesday and Thursday - which means Wednesday and Friday’s are the best days for fresh fish.

The Al Vecchio Doc pizzeria is no more than 50 meters from our apartment. Sadly, I missed this particular event - the “Giro di Pizza”.

We’ve been here for a week, and are almost settled (like I said before, everything takes longer when traveling with full family, so I’ve adjusted and readjusted (ie: lowered) my expectations for ride and work time, but that’s what you get when you head off on one of life’s great adventures – the unexpected.

Our next stop is Rome – so stay tuned for more from Italy. And don't worry - I'm even gonna get some bikin' in...


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