Note: The European Training Centre (ETC) is in Gavirate, Italy. It is used by all different sports requiring a base in Europe. It is about 60 km Northwest of Milano, nestled on Lago di Varese. The people of Gavirate are very friendly and understanding of the Australians who live there.
Back track one year ago, to when I landed in Italy. I was a first year senior, first year pro, first year living overseas. To say I was overwhelmed, nervous, edgy, would be an understatement. This foreign place, where I knew all but a few words, ciao, prego, si, pizza, was so unfamiliar, and a long, long way from Aus. Fast forward one year, and I feel like I’m almost coming back to my second home. Transitioning this time round has been so much easier thanks to my Orica family.
I know a few more words, which makes life a little easier when going to the grocery store. No more pointing and gesturing with my hands, making the shape of an “apple” (ok, I still do that as well as staring blankly across at my server, both of us trying to work what on earth just transpired). I am trying to learn more Italian but I haven’t taken it seriously enough. I feel guilty being in Italy and making the Italians try and speak English. It makes communicating quite difficult when ordering dinner, asking for directions when you are lost or if you want to tell someone how cute their little scruffy dog is. If you are a dog lover Italy is the place for you. You’d be pleased to know dogs are very welcome everywhere! That includes restaurants and cafes. They are often given their own chair to sit on too. Just think of Paris Hilton and her handbag puppy.
We have an excellent little fruit shop tucked in an alley behind one of the apartment blocks, the staff at the fruit shop are very lenient with my poor Italian. Instead of picking the fruit yourself, you tell the staff what you want and they collect the fruit/vegetables for you. There is a small supermarket only a 5 minute walk away and there is another supermarket, which is much bigger but further away. If you plan on doing a shop there you can either take a back pack, steal a trolley or ask the ETC staff very nicely if they can drive you home.
I made the mistake of trying to hop into the driver’s seat in my taxi on my way back from the airport. The driver just laughed at me and soon was interested to hear about life in Australia. The initial shock of riding on the right hand side of the road goes away after the first few rides. However, Lizzie and I did almost go head on into a bus before we realised we were on the wrong side of the road. Riding through Italy is like riding through an endless post card! It is so picturesque and I am constantly in awe of the beauty. It has so many great climbs and training roads. I have already picked up a few new loops this year from our tour guide Gracie who is practically a local.
The Wi-Fi in the apartments is a little frustrating. Every time you enter your room you have to reconnect and sign in. The chances are very low that you will be able to watch Netflix as it enjoys cutting out every few minutes. The Wi-Fi makes the rules in this household. Not the other way around. The odds of your laptop even picking up the Wi-Fi signal are 50/50. The bedroom I acquired last year didn’t pick up any Wi-Fi in the 3 months I stayed there. We are however lucky the ETC has a much more efficient system. So If you want to take the hike down there you can (ok it’s not that far – only 500m downhill, but just for Wi-Fi it’s a small inconvenience).
On the note of the ETC, it is located on the edge of Gavirate next to lago di Varese. It’s absolutely brilliant to have great facilities so close. We have access to a gym, stretching room, hot/cold pool, lounge, games room, kitchen and a lot of staff that keep everything running smoothly. Usually when I am home I can spend 2.5 hours driving to and from training sessions a day! Or I have to spend the whole day in Adelaide if I have a double day. Here it’s a nice walk or cruise down the hill. No more quick rushes to pack food! I can now come back to my apartment easily between sessions to refuel and recover.
Apartment wise there’s a bit of luck with what you get. Last year Mace and I were living on top of each other. Mace drew the short straw and had to sleep in our kitchen. Although it wasn’t much of a kitchen, it only had a mini bar fridge and two hot plates as a stove. It was also our lounge. We were very crammed in. A fold out double bed, a small dining table, couch and kitchen. All in one little room. Every morning at 7am the dump truck would empty the glass bottles outside my window, so if you were a light sleeper, a sleep-in was very unlikely. I can HAPPILY say this year I have upgraded in that department! Hallelujah! I now have access to an oven, a much larger fridge and I even get my own toilet! (Fabulous! I know). I am still waiting patiently for my next upgrade to a room with a balcony. But for now I will settle on dinner dates, visiting the neighbour’s ones.
I have adjusted much better into the Gavirate lifestyle this time and am looking forward to the next 4 months!