In Italy, spring weather invites people outside for picnics,hiking and biking. The most famous Italian bike race is the Giro d’Italia that takes place for three weeks in May. The route changes every year, so some roads may be closed or redirected to allow the cyclists a non-stop ride. The changing route also allows Italians in smaller towns to witness a national sports event without leaving home.

It’s fun to watch the cyclists speed by, but there are always huge crowds, so bring your lunch and get comfortable, because once it starts, it’s almost impossible to get out of town!

The race began in 1909 and was organized by a sports newspaper called La Gazzetta, which was (and still is) printed on pink paper. La Gazzetta no longer hosts the race, but the leading cyclist for each day wears a pink jersey so you can spot him more easily. There are daily winners, overall winners and winners for specific events, so every cyclist has a chance to win a prize.

If you are not a fan of speed and endurance racing, you should go to the town of Gubbio in Umbria. Here the Race of the Candles (La Corsa dei Ceri) takes place in Mayvwith the same fervor as the Giro d’Italia, but without any pressure to come in first.

Since the 12th century, the residents of Gubbio have celebrated their beloved medieval bishop, St Ubaldo, with a procession of enormous 22 foot candles, (now made of wood) that have a large statue on top. One candle is for St Ubaldo, patron of stone masons, another one is for St Giorgio, protector of merchants, and the third is for St Antonio, patron saint of the farmers. It takes a team of at least six men to carry the candles on a platform through the town and to the Basilica of St Ubaldo. Each team wears a distinctly colored shirt so the townspeople can identify them during the “race”.

Unlike any other race in the world, the first team to reach the church is not necessarily the winner. St Ubaldo always arrives first because it’s his church and his feast day. The real winner is determined by the townspeople who have been paying very close attention to the race. They base their judgement on the finesse and skill of the teams in balancing the candles and working well together, not on their speed. So we have a race to fit every taste during the month of May in Italy and there’s something to appreciate about both events.

Be sure to wish all the moms in your life a Happy Mother’s Day on May 14 and let’s honor the moms we miss by carrying on their family traditions.

Submitted by Charlene Pardo