Return To The Motherland

Photos and story by Giovanni Reda

Every year in skateboarding there’re several things that always happen. For one, there’re the trade shows-they’re basically one big skateboarding party. Anyone who’s anyone in the industry is there. Also, there’re a bunch of contests that happen in Europe that everyone goes to, so you can always count on that happening. Another thing is traveling to Australia-someone always spends the winter months there because it’s summer on the other side of the Earth. Well, that’s just a couple of them, but I’ve started my own tradition: going to Italy.

This is the third trip I’ve taken to the motherland. I plan on going again next year, the year after, and so forth. One thing that I hope happens from these trips is that the tradition will continue long after I’m gone. If a ten-ton truck crushes me or every mag hates me and will never publish another one of my photos ever again, I hope someone keeps up the tradition. They can call it the Reda Pilgrimage, or maybe Giovanni’s Italian Adventure, or even the Gio Reda Memorial Italy Tour. Maybe I’m reaching with this one, but hey, you can never dream too big, right?

Back to this year’s trip, when we were in the airport on the way over to Milan, I looked over at the crew and thought I should shoot a photo of everyone, but I figured I’d get one out there. My mistake-Kenny Anderson had to leave early because his wife is pregnant, but I can’t blame a guy for needing to get back to his expecting wife. By the time you read this, he’ll probably be a dad. I keep telling him to name his kid after me, what do you think? Giovanni Luigi Anderson-I think that sounds kinda fly. Well, if you see Kenny, tell him that it does.

About halfway through the trip, Mikey Taylor sprained his ankle and got two heel bruises at the same time. He tried to kickflip this massive amount of stairs, I think it was about 100-or fifteen, something like that. He could barely walk, so he left at the same time Kenny did. That kind of sucked, but on we went, two soldiers down-like in Saving Private Ryan after Vin Diesel and Giovanni Ribisi got whacked.

When we were getting on the plane and situating ourselves, I started to put my bag up in the overhead compartment. I moved this lady’s plastic bag over, and she started to get mad at me. She said there’s bread in there and not to break it. When I told her I wasn’t, I was just moving it over, she replied that if I break anything I have to pay for it. Now come on, can you picture this f-kin’ lady trying to make me pay for some crushed bread. Hey, if it’s that important to you, put it in your f-king lap. Todd Jordan and I were cracking up at her.

Upon our arrival in Italy we were greeted at the gate by our good friend Federico, who took us all around Italy last year, and he will probably take us all around again next year. If it wasn’t for his help, nothing would’ve happened. He knows someone in every city, had good hotel hook-ups, and would go completely out of his way to make us as comfortable as possible.

Fede picked us up with one of his friends and brought us to our hotel. For a drive across Italy with ten people, you need more than one car, so Federico got the help of his buddy Mauro to haul us around-another great guy. How many people do you know who would pack up their car with a bunch of skaters they never met and drive across the country with them? Not many. They did, and for that we owe them everything.

Now that we are officially underway, let me introduce you to everyone who came along. Besides Kenny Anderson, Mikey Taylor, Todd Jordan, and myself, there were also Danny Montoya, Joey Pepper, Jake Nunn, and R.B. Umali to film-of course Federico and Mauro, as well. Then there was Bruno, who was friends with Federico, who came to skate with us, which was cool because he was cool. Every time I saw Bruno I would call his name, and when he would look over at me I would tell him that I hated him. Everyone got a ki out of it.

Once all the driving began, there were several things I wasn’t ready for. For one, the price of gas is through the roof-shit, it cost almost 100 dollars to fill each tank with gas. I thought 50 bucks in the States was out of control, but shit, double that is pretty f-kin’ ridiculous. Also, we thought about renting a van to make the trek, but that would’ve cost us about 2,000 dollars for a minivan, and we probably would’ve needed two. Four-thousand on rentals-that’s pretty crazy. It would’ve been cheaper to fly from city to city.

The plan was to drive from Milan down the west coast of Italy all the way to Sicily. The only problem was that after Naples the highways stop and they turn into two lane roads. Driving on regular highways it would probably take about ten hours to reach the tip of the boot, but on the smaller roads it would take nearly eighteen hours. Just imagine being stuck behind some old man’s truck going about 40. You’d probably kill yourself. So when we reached Naples we decided to take the ferry from there.

Something interesting to know about Naples, the laws of the road do not exist. I know you’ve heard the stories about how crazy everyone drives in Italy, but Naples is by far the worst-stop signs, lights, pedestrians, who cares? Obviously, not them.

There’s a helmet law for the scooters, and you’re not supposed to have more than two people on them. There were whole families on the scooters with no helmets-three, sometimes four people on them at once. It was crazy. Two kids standing up between the handlebars and the seat, the guy driving, and a chick on the back. It was by far the craziest thing I ever saw in my life. If you live in L.A., you know that the cars will stop for you when you cross the street; in NY, they’ll slow down a little for you; but in Naples, they’ll drive right over you. Understand this-if it’s your light and it’s your turn to cross the street and you get hit by a guy on a scooter ’cause he didn’t pay attention to the light for some reason, it would be your fault.

My dad has a whole theory about describing Italians in general, and if anyone gets insulted by this, I can give a rat’s ass. Anyway, if you put a mountain of coal in Italy and a mountain of coal in Germany and you come back a hundred years later, this is what you would find. In Germany, you’d have iron and machinery and they would be burning the coal, making things happen and all that. When you go to Italy, they’ll still be arguing on who’s going to shovel it. I told Federico this and he was cracking up, because he knows the truth that it holds.

Once we were ready to leave Naples for Sicily, we got onto the ferry for our ride across the Mediterranean Sea. The ferry left at eight at night and arrived at six in the morning. We ate dinner on the boat, then went to sleep to wake up at 5:30 in the morning. We had a croissant and an espresso, then watched the sun come up over Sicily. There’re plenty of times you take most things in life for granted. This was not one of those times-watching the sun come up over Sicily.

My friend’s mom is from there, and when I told her about that she said she never did that in her whole life, so I was even more psyched that we stood on the end of the railing for the whole time and waited ’til the sun cracked the night sky with daylight. It’s one of those things you’ll never forget.

When we arrived in Palermo, Sicily, we drove about an hour and a half south until we reached the city of Siricusa. On the way down, we drove through the most beautiful countryside I’d ever seen. Now, understand I’m a city dweller. I need a building to block my view. I really need the pavement-but this was some unbelievable countryside.

When we reached Siricusa we met up with this guy named Pepe, who took us to where we were staying. We stayed at a bed and breakfast that would normally cost about 100 euros a head. The guy who owned the place has a son who skates and is a big fan of everyone on the trip, so we got a great deal. He charged us 25 euros a head. It was by far the best place we stayed.

Every morning we went to the pool for an hour, then went to the beach for two. The beach looked like the Bahamas. The water was crystal clear and blue-amazing. At night when we got back, we paid twenty euros a head for dinner. Dinner consisted of an appetizer, a pasta dish, then a main course followed by dessert and coffee-add to that as much wine and bottles of water as you wanted. You don’t get a better deal than that. Well, maybe if you came to my parents’ house for dinner that might be a little better since you don’t have to pay.

The skate spots in Sicily were some of the best we skated on the whole trip. We could’ve probably stayed there for the whole two weeks and still would not have skated everything. We went to this perfect double-set. We had to get permission from the local mobsters to skate there. I’m not even kidding a little bit-permission, not from cops, not from security, not even from the owners of the park, which would be the city, but the local gangsters. At one point my friend told us that there was some guy there saying, “I don’t care they’re from the States or if they’re world champs. Who said they could skate here?” The one local guy we were with said that we were with him and we were his friends. Then mobster guy said, “Okay, cool.” Maybe you’ve seen the movies like Goodfellas, Casino, or whatever mobster movie you want to think about, but these dudes were the real deal. They sat around and drank coffee and wine all day. I think they shook down the local business owners for protection money. The only thing they’re protecting them from is themselves.

The kid who brought us to the double-set wants me to put the name of the park in this story. It is called the Avola double-set. The area is famous for its local red wine. A while ago, a photographer from Italy did an article in an Italian skate mag, and he didn’t put the name in there so no one would know were the spot was. The Sicilian guys were pretty bummed on it. Also, he called Fede and told him not to bring us around to any spots ’cause he didn’t want any of the U.S. guys to skate them. What a dick. Well, Fede told him to go f-k himself and took us everywhere, anyway. As for that dude, I don’t think anyone likes him. It’s strange, ’cause there’s a lot of that going on. So if you come to NYC, holla at me-I’ll show you everything, even Bobby Puleo’s secret spots in Brooklyn. Yeah, sorry, Bob, I do know where all those spots are. I did grow up there and spent the majority of my life there.

There were several times in Sicily that we had to gather ourselves up real quick and get out of the area because of the locals. Personally, I think some of it is bullshit. We went out one night and Pepe told us try not to make too much eye contact and be careful what girls you talk to because of their boyfriends-you don’t want to start any trouble. When he told us that, I thought to myself, “This is just like the guidos in my neighborhood.” If you stare at them too long, they’re gonna say, “What are you looking at?” And of course, that’s beef. If you start trying to pick up one of their girls, there’s gonna be beef. So I kind of laughed to myself. Here I am about 4,000 miles from my house, and I’m back in Bensonhurst.

I wonder where we’re going to go next year. I hope its gonna be just as good as this year. Of course it is. Italy is good every year. I think we are gonna do the east coast of Italy since we did the west this year. I’ll see you next year-until then, have an espresso on me. Ciao!

eryone on the trip, so we got a great deal. He charged us 25 euros a head. It was by far the best place we stayed.

Every morning we went to the pool for an hour, then went to the beach for two. The beach looked like the Bahamas. The water was crystal clear and blue-amazing. At night when we got back, we paid twenty euros a head for dinner. Dinner consisted of an appetizer, a pasta dish, then a main course followed by dessert and coffee-add to that as much wine and bottles of water as you wanted. You don’t get a better deal than that. Well, maybe if you came to my parents’ house for dinner that might be a little better since you don’t have to pay.

The skate spots in Sicily were some of the best we skated on the whole trip. We could’ve probably stayed there for the whole two weeks and still would not have skated everything. We went to this perfect double-set. We had to get permission from the local mobsters to skate there. I’m not even kidding a little bit-permission, not from cops, not from security, not even from the owners of the park, which would be the city, but the local gangsters. At one point my friend told us that there was some guy there saying, “I don’t care they’re from the States or if they’re world champs. Who said they could skate here?” The one local guy we were with said that we were with him and we were his friends. Then mobster guy said, “Okay, cool.” Maybe you’ve seen the movies like Goodfellas, Casino, or whatever mobster movie you want to think about, but these dudes were the real deal. They sat around and drank coffee and wine all day. I think they shook down the local business owners for protection money. The only thing they’re protecting them from is themselves.

The kid who brought us to the double-set wants me to put the name of the park in this story. It is called the Avola double-set. The area is famous for its local red wine. A while ago, a photographer from Italy did an article in an Italian skate mag, and he didn’t put the name in there so no one would know were the spot was. The Sicilian guys were pretty bummed on it. Also, he called Fede and told him not to bring us around to any spots ’cause he didn’t want any of the U.S. guys to skate them. What a dick. Well, Fede told him to go f-k himself and took us everywhere, anyway. As for that dude, I don’t think anyone likes him. It’s strange, ’cause there’s a lot of that going on. So if you come to NYC, holla at me-I’ll show you everything, even Bobby Puleo’s secret spots in Brooklyn. Yeah, sorry, Bob, I do know where all those spots are. I did grow up there and spent the majority of my life there.

There were several times in Sicily that we had to gather ourselves up real quick and get out of the area because of the locals. Personally, I think some of it is bullshit. We went out one night and Pepe told us try not to make too much eye contact and be careful what girls you talk to because of their boyfriends-you don’t want to start any trouble. When he told us that, I thought to myself, “This is just like the guidos in my neighborhood.” If you stare at them too long, they’re gonna say, “What are you looking at?” And of course, that’s beef. If you start trying to pick up one of their girls, there’s gonna be beef. So I kind of laughed to myself. Here I am about 4,000 miles from my house, and I’m back in Bensonhurst.

I wonder where we’re going to go next year. I hope its gonna be just as good as this year. Of course it is. Italy is good every year. I think we are gonna do the east coast of Italy since we did the west this year. I’ll see you next year-until then, have an espresso on me. Ciao!

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