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The Chianti hills of Italy are one of the most famous places in the entire world. They are renowned for their superior wine, great food and beautiful landscapes. But what about skating them? At the end of 2006, when I had to move to Siena, just at the doorstep of the Chianti area, I knew I was going to a place that could offer more hills than I had ever seen around my hometown, a flat seaside city in the South. I had been longboarding for about a year, mostly on flatland or mellow slopes, and was thrilled by the possibility of learning to skate down real hills.
Actually, the terrain didn’t disappoint, with slopes everywhere: in the city streets, in the parking lots and right outside my house. However, I had to reckon with what I already knew: Longboarding in Italy was not an easy passion to cultivate.
Essentially, I was alone. I had always been so, but I had hoped this could change in the new place. Most people didn’t even imagine something like a longboard existed, and were regularly giving me “the look of the alien” when they came across me walking back up a hill fully padded. I knew there were a few other longboarders scattered through the country, thanks to a national forum where we met each other and started to share the stoke. But we were very far apart, and from the screen of my computer they couldn’t help me learn to ride the steep, twisting roads I had around me.
You do want spotters when riding open roads in Italy. Traffic may or may not be heavy, but Italians like to have fun driving, and they’re often in a hurry. They don’t even suspect some “wacko” could roll out of a turn on a wooden board with wheels (and no brakes). Plus, the sexiest roads among the hills were narrow,leaving not much room for mistakes or inconveniences. So I had to cope with that, and devoted myself to hard-wheel sliding. I got the basics down and had fun learning slide tricks by myself on straight hills.
Things unexpectedly started to change by the end of 2008, when I was carving some flowy lines in a small park and met a guy named David. He was there rollerblading, but he knew longboards were out there and was curious to try. So I let him try my boards, told him about sliding and finally set him up with his first rig. It was a basic carving/cruising setup. I was just getting more into soft-wheel sliding and David picked it up quickly, so it wasn’t long before we switched our carving boards for DH/freeride setups and started looking for spots to practice drifting corners. Soon I discovered that my new friend was not only an amusing skate mate and a proficient rider, but also a skilled, passionate sports photographer, who had as much fun shooting great pics as he had skateboarding.
So, things were feeling fresh and exciting, but the best was yet to come. A few months later the two of us became three, as we were joined by Dario, an acquaintance of David who had been bombing hills on skateboards (and other unlikely wheeled devices) since he was a kid, with just big balls but no knowledge whatsoever of what he was doing or how to savehis life. Shortly after, three became four with the arrival of Antonio, a hardcore surfer (and a true character) and a seasoned skater who had been ripping on ramps and bowls since the ’80s and was now looking for some downhill fun. The four of us got along very well and started sessioning on a regular basis on the weekends. Thus the Chianti Drifters were born, and the attack on the hills began.
Although each one of us had his own distinct style and preferences, we specialized in finding the gnarliest corners and most technical switchbacks, aiming at riding them sideways, with occasional stretches of speed here and there. We geared up with walkietalkies to check on cars in blind corners and longer runs, and we even had a few “sunrise sessions” to be able to ride some sexy hairpins we found in busy residential areas. We had a lot of fun on and off our boards; our technique got better and better, with faster speeds, cleaner lines and steezier slides; the stoke was flying high, as we felt we were riding the hills of Tuscany in a way no one else had done before. On top of this, David was shooting sick photos all the way.
Unfortunately, good things don’t last forever. After about one year of riding together, the Chianti Drifters went through some darker times; I had to move back to my hometown, Dario moved to Spain for a while, and Antonio had to deal with some surf-related injuries. However, we did not give up, and today we’re all still skating and looking to get more people involved inlongboarding and freeriding. The bond between the four of us stays strong, and we still get together from time to time to have fun shredding old and new spots in the Chianti area and to spread some stoke.
Meanwhile, the Italian scene has been growing fast, with lots of people picking up the sport during the last months and setting up for what could be the first Italian “longboard summer.” The Chianti Drifters will be part of it and are proud to have contributed to sparking the passion for freeriding and drifting down the hills of Italy.
In this promising scenario, many longboardrelated initiatives are brewing. David is working on a photo book entitled “Black Box” (with a clear reference to airplane flight recorders), where he’ll collect the best shots from 2008 to this day, as a testimony of the freeride beginnings of the Chianti Drifters. The book also features Team Flat (Federico Barboni and Roberto Marasca – teamflat.it) and others. The progress of this project can be followed on the Facebook group named “Somewhere in Italy – Longskate.”CW