In the early '90s, Timberland decided to open a store in Milan. My wife Shelly worked for them then. They asked her to help out at the store for a couple of weeks, to make sure the place felt authentically "American."
Sure, they said to her, take your husband. We'll book an appropriate room.
And they did, in a rockstar hotel in Milan, brutally expensive but convenient to northbound roads leading to Monza and Lake Como.
I took my RB-1 Bridgestone. It had LeMond Drop-In bars given to me by Boonie Lennon, the inventor. I wore a Giro helmet. Italians stared and asked me questions I couldn't understand.
I'd clack through the hotel lobby with my bike. The guys working there treated me as if I were Francesco Moser. Only bigshots stayed there, stuffy types, not cyclists, so the bellmen got a kick out of me.
I'd ride north, never looking at my map, trying to get lost. When I'd succeed, I'd think: You're lost on your bike in the north of Italy. Better to be lost in Italy than know precisely where you are anywhere else.
One time I got genuinely lost and asked at a cafe for help. A guy hopped on his Vespa, directed me to follow, and took me at bicycle speed to the road I was seeking.
I rode to the shrine at La Madonna del Ghissalo. I rode to Como and had lunch at a lakeside cafe. I rode to Bergamo and hung out with the US National Cycling Team. The guys were staying in a pizza place-hotel called something like Mother's.
They were racing in a big pro/am stage race based in Bergamo. One of the national team riders, a hell-for-strong kid from Texas who'd just given up triathlons, won the thing. His win surprised everyone but his teammates, who knew just how strong he was.
Later in the decade, that same guy won the Tour de France.