Jump to content

Travels and Grappa


Recommended Posts

Since there was so much traffic about "the Grappa", I thought I might share some of my stories regarding Travel, Guzzis, and Grappa.

I first of heard of the drink from Bad Chad (WG) at the National Rally in Iowa a decade ago.  A few years later I went to the biggest liquor store in town to procure some for Dusty's Cedar Vale Rally.  The closest drink I could find was Grape Brandy, best I could tell it's the same stuff but with some actual grapes in it.  Anyway, not many takers at Cedar but at the next rally at the Okla Campout, a few folks (Rudy) got a taste for it and it was gone.  

Anyway, I'll move forward in time a half dozen years.  One thing I can tell you when traveling, if you aren't wearing a nice suit when going to a nice a Italian restaurant, whether in NYC, Rome or Cinque Terre, wear a Moto Guzzi (or Ducati) t-shirt.  Someone, usually working on the floor, will appreciate it and get you a nice table or suggest something on the menu (or even show you their motorcycle helmet).

I digress, so the story moves to the Rhine Valley where the Mrs and I were taking a tour of Europe.  Myself, along with half dozen newly befriended fellow travelers ended up at bar.  The local specialty was Riesling wine.  I confessed to the group, I had never cared for it since my samplings always had a bad aftertaste.  This was confounded that no one of the group liked White wine anyway.   As a result of that, the wife and I were presented a challenge of drinking a Flight of Riesling.  We were gifted a Flight, while they all drank Red.  I must say, the wine was incredibly good and each glass better than the other.  This was to the amusement of the group as we raved.  I think they were a little jealous.

So our traveling group finally made it to Italy.  The entire group of 20+ were assembled for a meal in Florence.  A couple of things came up there that allowed me to explain to the group about dinner that came from my experiences with the Guzzi crowd.  First, our meal of Spaghetti Carbonara was made from bacon and egg sauce.  Next, when the aperitifs were offered after the meal, I explained the origins of Grappa.  I will say that no one but the Mrs and I had any taste for it.  And that turned out to be a good thing, since we both got more than our share of Grappa throughout many subsequent meals.  

So the moral of the story, going to Guzzi rallies are educational and wearing Guzzi shirts can be social passports.


Now, let me share that although Grappa is a Guzzi tradition, we might enhance it.   I would guess the national drink of Italy (at least in Venice) is the Aperol Spritz.  Aperol is an Orange Liquor that's mixed Prosecco (cheap dry Italian Champagne).  So for your next Italian cookout, I'd suggest the Spritz to start with,  Carbonara for the meal, followed by Grappa at the end.  


Not much of a story but I'm snowed in (and the news on the TV makes me sick).


  • Like 3
  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice story John.

90 year old grandmas in Italy and here in the US of Italian origin are fond of putting a little grappa in their morning coffee.  When I was a student at the university, I rented a room in a house, owned by the chancellor's secretary and her 90 year old mother from Sicilia (Palermo).  She was an amazing cook, making gnocchi by hand, fantastic chicken and pasta dishes, and every morning started out her routine at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and some grappa.  She would always offer some to me just before I headed out to class on my bicycle...

Years earlier, on a long family trip trekking around Europe in 1978 in a MB 207D van my Dad had bought, we spent a lot of time in Bolzano and surrounding areas (village of Brez), Bassano del Grappa and Trieste.  Needless to say, the elders of the village were also quite fond of their various types of grappa.

It certainly warms the heart, and lots of great stories can be made over a favorite liquor!

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you, @KINDOY2, but @p6x, @LowRyter, and some others here would likely be fine guides, too.

Perhaps the interested among us might plan a Tour d'Grappa.  Better hire a driver.  :D:drink:

As evidence, consider this.  Many years ago, during that same three-year sentence to "confinement" in Italy (and the rest of non-commie Europe), I was seriously into pedal bikes.  Think I have told that story here before ... but not this part.

Bob, one of the other Americans who lived near me in Zanè (Thiene)(VI), 18 miles or so from Caserma Ederle, was also an avid bicyclist.  In good weather, we frequently commuted.  It was a very gentle downhill slope from home to the post, and, obviously, the reverse going home, so the latter -- again, obviously -- always took longer even tho we were both young and fit.  

We both had also come to appreciate the charm of grappa.

Perhaps you see where this is going?

One spring day, we decided we would ride in and then, in a twist (without a lime), we would stop at every bar -- a term a bit different in Italy than here, but all served caffè (espresso) and, of course, grappa of many sorts.  

To digress, a specialty of mine, one of my favorites -- mostly to make wives groan -- was "grappa alla vipero,"  e.g. ...



Makes worms in tequila seem downright sissy.  :P

Anyway, our plan was to ride back to Zanè after Retreat ... with a stop at every bar on the right side of the road for a shot of grappa.  

What could go wrong?

Actually,  nothing at all.  For the first three bars, anyway, tho we were still in Vicenza's city limits!

Oh, wait, time for another digression.  :rolleyes:

If you read any of my (LONG) post yesterday about grappa -- https://www.v11lemans.com/forums/index.php?/topic/24056-moto-grappa-tech-days-mmxxii/&do=findComment&comment=270524 -- you know of my reverence for those courageous men on both sides in WWI who fought and suffered at 10,000 feet in the Dolomites. The typical American stereotype of the Italian military is ridiculous and unwarranted then and today.  I was always struck by the name of a street in Vicenza -- that was along our commuting route home: "Via Ragazzi '99" -- the boys of '99" -- named, of course, after the generation of young Italian men lost in the Great War.  Most of those died in the Dolomites; if they had time, they no doubt called for their mamas as men do in extremis.  Now their bones are in mountain ossuaries or mummified in the ice.


OK, back to the Great Grappa Bicycle Ride! :race:

So, after a few more miles into the ride, we were, quite literally, feeling no pain and, in fact, feeling great.  Thankfully, we then had several miles with only one or two bars in the little towns along the way, e.g., Motta and Villaverla.  We did OK ... until the latter village.  Somewhere north of there, Bob just disappeared.  One moment, we were stroking along and then only I was.  It took me more time than it should have to realize that I was now riding solo.  I doubled back and saw Bob down in a ditch.  He was conscious and -- I am serious -- singing something.  :grin:

I asked him if he wanted me to help him out of the ditch so we could ride on.  "No," he said, "I'm done."  He then made the only smart suggestion of our day. "Better go get our wives."  

Recall that cell phones were decades away and, in fact, none of us had gotten a telephone in our homes after a couple of years on a long waiting list.  The ditch was dry, Bob was "happy," so I rode on.  

Naturally, I thought it would be unsporting and possibly deprive me of counting coup if I did not continue to have a shot of grappa in the remaining few miles.  That meant, as I recall -- and, as you might guess, I don't recall much of anything after leaving Bob in the ditch :whistle: -- several more stops.  I could then speak enough of (slurred, and possibly improved and inspired by the circumstances) Italian to convey my mission to bar patrons.  Somewhere along the way, I (think I) remember one guy saluting me, paying for my shot, calling for huzzahs from all, and then buying me another shot.  

An hour or so after abandoning Bob to his fate, I rolled into Via Europa, Zanè.  I was not given the hero's welcome I expected.  No, instead, I was met by a group of distraught and irate wives -- including Bob's and mine -- who were on the verge of looking for a rope and a tree!  They had already dispatched a rescue car of the other husbands to find us.  I figure that I must have been in one of those bars when they passed by; Bob would have been invisible from the road unless you knew where to look and he was still singing.

Three of the wives -- I was lucky there was a disinterested one who kept Bob's wife from killing me -- got me into a car and off we went to find Bob.


All (eventually) turned out well, but "eventually" took longer for our wives than for us.  The next morning was a Saturday or we would have been useless at Caserma Ederle.  Happily, the Russians did not choose that weekend to cross the Fulda and Goriza Gaps.  :D

So, all of what I remember of that is true, tho I have filled in some details from what others told me after the fact.  

I have other grappa stories, but that will have to do for today as I got little done yesterday in the Moto Grappa and it is calling me now.

Alla nostra!




  • Like 3
  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 hours ago, LowRyter said:

Now, let me share that although Grappa is a Guzzi tradition, we might enhance it.   I would guess the national drink of Italy (at least in Venice) is the Aperol Spritz.  Aperol is an Orange Liquor that's mixed Prosecco (cheap dry Italian Champagne).  So for your next Italian cookout, I'd suggest the Spritz to start with,  Carbonara for the meal, followed by Grappa at the end. 

Another fascinating topic of conversation about Italy!

It seems Italians have so many different aperitifs with funny names, and "bizarre" tastes. I am sure most of you heard: Martini, Cinzano, Campari?

Well, when I started to work in Ravenna, we had Crodino every time before lunch...

Anyone of Italian descent knows Crodino? it is a non alcoholic beverage though..


  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 minutes ago, p6x said:

A la notre! or if in "aparté" A la tienne! although I never heard this said in Italy.


“Working” in Moto Grappa.

Will respond later; mebbe tomorrow.

Zum Wohl! :bier:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

The last two posts remind me of a couple of things, particularly the photo of the snake in the bottle.  My cousin worked for Phillips for most of his career and lived in Mainland China for about 5 years.  He used to visit every Christmas and bring gifts.  Funny, I would see him more often when he lived half way across the world rather than now where he's three hours up the road.   His family brought a Chinese painting one year, they have unique style, lots of color, flat/two dimensional.  Anyway, one year he brought me Snake Wine.  It was a commemorative gift in an upholstered box.   He told me that people did drink it, I declined.  I set it out for display for a couple of years but after the novelty wore off, I put it in the pantry.  I suppose it's still there.  The painting is still hanging on the entry hall.  Very cheery. 

PS6 mentioned trying the various aperitifs in Italy.  In fact we did try many.  I found many too sweet for my taste, particularly the lemony one.   Actually, I was the one out of step for the group preferring the Grappa over the sweet stuff.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Bill Hagan


Since we are at it, we may as well bring "Amaro" into it too....

Having spent time in Sicily, I was partial of Amaro Averna... the strangest one that I ever drank was Cynar, or Artichoke's liquor.... where else but in Italy can one drink strange stuff?

Amaro Averna is very syrupy and sweet, but "riscalda la vita".... This would go well on a Guzzi reunion; not even sure you can purchase it in the USA, can you?

So now after we brought "gli Amari", we have rounded it.... makes me nostalgic of Italy...


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...