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Giro Stage 5: Sicilian Riviera Homecoming Trot

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A coastal romp to Nibali’s Hometown

Marie Laure Messana Getty

Stage 5: Pedara — Messina, 159km

It’s another coastal romp — these things happen on islands — as the Giro visits the home town of Vincenzo Nibali for the first time in his career. The theme will be mostly about beauty... and sprinting.

Carta:

Stage 5 map

Profile:

Stage 5 profile

What’s It About?

A sprinters’ stage and a recovery day after a hard one in the saddle. The race begins on the shoulder of Etna, swings down into the suburbs of Catania, Sicily’s eastern capital, before humping over another branch of the volcano and then hitting the coast for a mellow ride to Messina. There is a TV sprint in Taormina that should be both challenging for whomever takes an interest and scenic for the cameras, but little more as the race approaches Messina.

In town, the race will actually do a 6km circuit involving two passes through a 180-degree roundabout, the final one maybe 1800 meters from the finish. Otherwise it should be a manageable day for the sprint teams, who will be licking their wounds after suffering on an early mountaintop finish the day before.

AmyBC’s Wine of the Day

Cos 2014 Pithos Rosso: A blend of 60% Nero d'Avola and 40% Frappato, aged in clay amphora.

From the importer: Azienda Agricola COS was founded by Giambattista (Titta) Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti and Cirino (Rino) Strano, three friends who wanted to recreate the work of their ancestors. The acronym (Cilia-Occhipinti-Strano) not only represents the company’s name, but also the beginning of a remarkable partnership. In 1980, the trio became the youngest winemakers in Italy when they bought Joseph Cilia’s old family winery. Located in the historic town of Bastonaca, the vineyard measured just over a mere three hectares. Fascinated by ancient cellar practices, COS decided to work with amphoras, clay jars that were used by the ancient Greeks. The first shipment came from Spain in September 2000, and thus, Pithos was born and a new COS identity was created. Tasting notes: Cherry and earth. Vibrant and elegant, this is one to seek out.

Did You Know!

That Messina, our destination and Nibali’s hometown, is some 2800 years old and recognizes Greek as an official second language? The Greeks moved into Sicily in the 800-750BC range, once the Phoenicians had moved on, and founded a number of surviving towns such as Taormina — known for its Greek Amphitheater -- and Agrigento — known for its Parthenon-like temple. Messina is another notable Greek settlement, where a scythe-shaped harbor lured in the migrants and named it “Zancle” (scythe). There’s still a neighborhood called Scaletta Zanclea. But the city was renamed around 500BC for the Greek city Messene, making Messina the Portland of the Mediterranean (in this one very, very minor way).

Oh, and Messina might be the city where the plague first made landfall on Europe. Allegedly the Black Death came to Italy on genoese ships returning from the Crimea. Also the Risorgimento was a thing here, with riots raging in Messina against the ruling Bourbons, and in another mere 12 years the Garibaldini had taken over. It’s been leveled by a couple earthquakes as well as Allied bombardment in WWII, so it’s mostly a rebuilt modern city with a few choice monuments remaining to tell the story of its ancient past.

If Nibali were to do one of those DNA tests that are all the rage now, he’d almost surely have a big chunk of Greek in there, along with North African, Fertile Crescentness, Norman, Spanish, and who knows what else. Sicily is one of the great melting pots of the world. That and a hundred other factors make it one of Italy’s least unification-friendly provinces, despite the Giro’s best efforts. Sicily happens to be in Italy, perhaps even happily so now, but it’s Sicily, first and last.

Pick to Win

Caleb Ewan. He has to get one right eventually, no?