How do you pick a partner for a 20 day roadtrip? We were finding someone to spend 24-hours a day with, eat every meal together, sleep in the same room, exercise/sweat/stink together, and only have privacy when the bathroom door closes or when we're fast asleep. It's not easy.
Most people know I'm pretty low-maintenance (as any girl would like to think she is) but ask my nearest & dearest and they will be a bit worried I'd get sick of someone very quickly. Other than best friends and boyfriends, I've only successfully spent a week with one other guy so far without going mad. It was one week in June of 2014 at the seaside with my best italian friend Alessandro on what we called our faux honeymoon. For this year's biking adventure, Silvestro Silvestori asked me to join him for almost 3 weeks on the road, just the two of us, and I couldn't have found a better partner. We were both lucky I think.
Silvestro owns the cutest regional food and wine school in the south of Italy. He started The Awaiting Table about 12 years ago in his home in Lecce, Puglia. The school focuses on the food of the Salento, a special section of Puglia, surrounded by two seas at the bottom of the boot's heel. I feel like I've known him for years thanks to blogging and social media but we finally met in July 2013 when I visited his school for a cooking course.
When I arrived in Lecce, we packed up saddlebags for the bicycles and did a test run to make sure I didn't pack too much stuff. To think the only things I actually left behind in Lecce were a bathing suit and a couple extra lipsticks, I think I packed quite well. We loaded up Silvestro's car with two bicycles, our bags, my Spotify account packed with killer jams for the ride and a small wooden box with two wine glasses and a bottle opener (in case of emergency). We were ready to roll.
Driving through Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria I was falling in love with the south. Silvestro is a true cheerleader for the south of Italy and repeatedly told me that the things I am so in love with about Sicily are also true of the whole south. I think he's finally cracked through my tough candy shell. Puglia is filled with olive groves and fields of artichokes with no rolling hills to block your view for miles and miles. Basilicata had orchards of breathtaking purple flowering trees (maybe apricots or peaches) that got me so excited to see Sicily's almond blossoms but actually the timing was not right. The coast of Calabria had bright blue water like the Caribbean and we stopped at a lookout point to see a beautiful castle on the sea with a veg vendor parked in front with a truck full of dried chilies. It was like a postcard.
This was probably Silvestro's 9th biking trip, having done this before with other female partners whether they were long-time friends, work acquaintances or girlfriends. I guess we both took a risk when I booked my flight to Brindisi without much of a plan for our cycling trip to visit Sicilian wineries. He tried to keep me calm and trust that he's done this trip before and it's not easy to make a plan for wine tours, hotels or meeting up with producers and friends. We never know how long it will take to bike from city to city, if there will be rain or if we have bicycle trouble - so to ditch work for 3 weeks and take off across the ocean without a plan wasn't exactly comforting for me. The capricorn ex-project manager in me was about to freak out but having someone as patient and smart as Silvestro on my side through this adventure was really my little rabbit's foot.
The Awaiting Table Cookery School