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The Panigacci Cup

■ 25 July 2012 by James Martin

My office here in rural California is right beside the street. It has big windows that open onto the small world in which I wallow discontentedly. Maybe once every few weeks someone on a bicycle trundles by. The riders are never swathed in colorful spandex like they are in other countries.

I just found something on Facebook that made me realize yet another thing I miss about not being in the Lunigiana. It’s that walk down the garden-bordered strada, punctuated by the whoosh of a bike gliding by that I can count on when the weather is nice. On weekends the whoosh is louder because there are large packs of riders pedaling the byways, always talking. The talking does not seem to slow them down.

But what I’m really excited about, meaning I’m sad I’m gonna miss it, is a special bicycle race taking place this weekend, the Panigacci Cup. It starts from Podenzana, the nexus for Panigacci restaurants. (Only one other town has a Panigacci tradition, and that is the nearby town of Aulla.)

Podenzana is an odd town. There is no there there, as is said of a place like gigantic (in comparison) Oakland, California. You find Podenzana on a twisty road from Aulla that winds up a hill with strings of houses along it—and panigacci restaurants—but there is no main piazza, no center, no place you can tell folks to meet you at unless its a restaurant.

In case you don’t know what panigacci is, well, it’s a local food we force everyone visiting my humble abode in the Lunigiana to taste. You go to a panigacci restaurant where a guy in front of a humongous fireplace is in charge of ladling unleavened dough into fire-blackened and red hot terra cotta plates called testi and stacking the whole deal until the panigacci brown on the outside and are ready to be put in a basket and brought to your table where you can slap on some meat, cheese, pesto or what have you. Simple. And you simply can’t get something bready as fresh from the oven anywhere else.

Anyway, the bike race called the Trofeo del Panigaccio will be held on Sunday the 29th of July. The notice is here

If you read all the way to the bottom there’s something that caught my eye and made my taste buds stand up and beg, “Poi al termine panigacci gratis per tutti!!!” There’s only one thing better than panigacci on a Sunday. It’s free panigacci.

And here’s something really amazing (well, to me that is). There’s a panigacci restaurant in SPAIN!

Find out more about panigacci in our illustrated blog post.

The Panigacci Cup originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com Jul 25, 2012, © James Martin.

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