Way back in time when we were young, free and on two wheels, we spent some time in Tavullia. Being huge Rossi fans and with VR46 retiring, we thought we would share our magical experience with you... Words & Pics: Jeff & Heather Ware
Heather and I are discussing the similarities between our hometown of Umina Beach, NSW, and Rossiʼs, as we wander aimlessly along the streets of Tavullia. Both nice and close to the beach and the bush, they share a common sense of community that all coastal towns…
I point out that they both produced freakishly fast yet dazzlingly charming motorcycle racers! Heather asks me if Iʼve ever seen a Jeffrofumi pizza anywhere in Umina. I say no. She then asks if Iʼve ever seen any Jeff flags flying proudly from any balconies. Another no. Finally she stops torturing me and tells me to shut up. We continue walking and I continue to fantasise about the flags and pizzas. Go Jeffrofumi!
Sitting under the shade of a tree we take in life Tavullia style. Itʼs 12:30pm on a Tuesday and all the shops and businesses are closed…
We soon arrive at the end of the main road, a little hot and thirsty after the climb up the hill. Sitting under the shade of a tree we take in life Tavullia style. Itʼs 12:30pm on a Tuesday and all the shops and businesses are closed for the customary Italian three-hour lunch but weʼre hungry and hoping to try a Rossi pizza.
The town is eerily quiet, the only sound being that of countless yellow #46 flags flapping in the wind, interrupted by the odd car or tractor. Heather spots a Valentino sticker on the bumper of a passing hatchback and we start playing spot the Rossi sticker.
Heather and I eventually doze off in the afternoon breeze. Itʼs a sleepy old town Tavullia, no doubt about that…
Itʼs not a hard game as every car we see has one. The entertainment soon wears thin and Heather and I eventually doze off in the afternoon breeze. Itʼs a sleepy old town Tavullia, no doubt about that.
“Ciao, ciao, svegliarsi, svegliarsi.” I wake from my afternoon siesta to the cheesy grin of a young kid whoʼs prodding me and telling me to wake up. I say hello to him in English and he jumps on his BMX, pedals flat-out across the small park and takes off up the street. Heather laughs, she says that heʼs cute like Rossi and probably his young cousin or some relation. I just wander why the cheeky bugger isnʼt at school!
I wake from my afternoon siesta to the cheesy grin of a young kid whoʼs prodding me and telling me to wake up..
Now desperately thirsty and in need of a feed we stroll back along the main street, thankfully downhill this time. Itʼs only 1:45pm so weʼre not expecting too much, weʼre told in broken English by a charming old man that most places will re-open at 3:00pm. Thatʼs no problem, we figure, weʼve got all night to make the 250km ride to Venizia and there are no speed limits on the motorways.
We spot a life-sized cardboard cutout of Rossi in the window of a pizza bar. The neon sign is partly obscured by a Rossi flag but I can still read it. ʻParideʼs Pizzaʼ, it says. Heather sets her tripod up in the middle of the street while I watch for cars.
“Valentino is my good friend. I have known him since he was a little boy.”
Heather spends about five minutes there, waiting for the wind to blow the flags the way she wants them. No cars come past, only a shaggy looking Boxer puppy that gives me a quick sniff and tries to piss on my leg. Heather eventually gets her shot and we head over the road to check for life.
I cup my hands around my eyes to block the glare and place my face against the glass. A big fella wearing a Rossi shirt, cap and bright yellow sneakers gives me a smile and walks toward the door. He pushes through the beads hanging from the doorframe and says something in Italian. I ask if he speaks English. He says yes and invites Heather and I into his humble shop.
“These are Rossifumi pizzas. The colours of the Italian flag with Valantinoʼs favourite mayonnaise making a number 46.”
“You here because of Rossi?” He asks. “Yep. Do you know him well?” I say, feeling pretty dumb considering the place is literally covered wall to wall in Rossi paraphernalia. “Yes.” He proudly boasts. “Valentino is my good friend. I have known him since he was a little boy.”
Paride sits us down and places a couple of cans of icy cold Coke on the table. We knock them back in a flash and he laughs. “You must be thirsty. Iʼll get another Coke each for you.” He introduces himself as Paride then joins us for a moment. “Where are you from?” He asks. “Australia,” we tell him.
“You donʼt know about the official fan club, eh?” Paride calls from the kitchen. “Thatʼs where weʼll go.”
“Wow, you are the second Aussieʼs to come here to my shop. The first was Michael Doohan.” Heather and I silently sip on our Cokeʼs for a moment and try to contemplate the fact that Mick Doohan has visited Tavullia. “At 3:00pm the office over the street opens and I will take you there. For now Iʼll make you some Rossifumi pizza.”
We look across the road, wondering what he means. “Ah, you donʼt know about the official fan club, eh?” Paride calls from the kitchen. “Thatʼs where weʼll go.” I pick up a newspaper to see Rossi on the front page. Heather then calls me over to the back wall to look at all the Rossi pics. “Heʼs so dreamy,” Heather sighs. “Look at his big blue eyes.” I remind her that my eyes are blue, too. “Yes, they are,” she admits. “But you are a loser and Rossi is a champion.”
Paride brings out two enormous pizzas. I clear all the Rossi books and magazines away from in front of me and he places the pizzas on the table. “These are Rossifumi pizzas. The colours of the Italian flag with Valantinoʼs favourite mayonnaise making a number 46.”
Iʼm so hungry that I hook straight into my pizza while Heather takes some photos of hers. We enjoy a delicious lunch and quiz Paride about Rossi and his family for an hour or so before we head across to the fan club office. As we leave Paride points out the Mayors office and tells us that Valeʼs Mum still works there as a secretary and that his Dad, Graziano, lives up the other end of the main street. They are friends, he says, but they have been separated since Valentino was a boy.
We enter the front door of what appears to be no more than a quaint Italian terrace. Paride introduces us to Ms Buscaglia, the fan club secretary. She smiles as Paride explains to her that we are from Australia and then, in broken English, she offers Heather a Valentino Rossi biography as a gift. Heather accepts and we all have a laugh.
I notice some trophies in a cabinet alongside the desk and take a look. There are trophies from every class of GP racing locked in a cabinet with one of those two-dollar luggage padlocks. I mention to Heather that theyʼd last about five minutes among all the thieves back home.
“Today is your lucky day. Sit on them if you like. Have some fun and take some photos”…
Paride is now in deep conversation with Ms Buscaglia. Weʼre not sure what theyʼre saying but we know that it involves us. A few minutes later Paride smiles and walks us through a door at the back of the office. He switches on the light and removes the sheet covering the bikes.
“Today is your lucky day. Sit on them if you like. Have some fun and take some photos.” Heather smiles and looks at me. “Go on then, Jeffrofumi, pretend while it lasts. After all, there are no GP bikes waiting for you in Umina”…
We were huge Rossi fans back then and to this day remain so. I guess like all VR fans, we feel lucky to have been able to watch him race and enjoy him through more than half of our lives, as when he started in GP Heather was 18 and I was 21. We want to return to Tavullia one day, after the four kids grow up and move out.
Back then we were young and free and only just starting out motorcycle publishing business, with me working full time at Two Wheels and Streetbike and Heather’s photography career just starting off. Rapid Bikes was still six months away when we were in Tavullia. Little did we know we would still be publishers and still running race reports with Rossi featured in 2021.
It would be impossible to count how many race reports, features and images we have run on Rossi in the past 20-years. We have published close to 200 magazine issues and had BikeReview for six years and I reckon VR46 features somewhere in just about everything we have done in some way. The absolute G.O.A.T. Thanks for the memories Vale and for putting motorcycling on the map, we will enjoy the next eight races of 2021!