13th December 2022
The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast
EPISODE 316: Milan to banish cars, Mayor promises manager of Eroica Caffe
SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles
HOST: Carlton Reid
GUEST: Andrea Benesso
TOPICS: Eroica cycling cafe in Milan.
Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 316 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. This show was engineered on Tuesday, the 13th of December 2022.
David Bernstein 0:27
The spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern Bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school or even carrying another adult, visit www.ternbicycles.com That’s t e r n bicycles.com to learn more.
Carlton Reid 1:02
I was in Milan the other week and popped into the brand new Eroica cafe in the city centre. The mayor and his entourage were there also. And after they left I asked cafe manager Andrea Benesso whether Mayor Sala really aims to reduce the dominance of cars in this most motor fixated of cities. I’m Carlton Reid, and I enjoyed cycling along Milan’s new cycleways, including the one that got me to the Eroica cafe. This cycling themed cafe — owned by the 25-year-old-this-year Eroica ride has taken over a former car accessories shop. So maybe that’s a sign of things to come. Here’s my chat with Andrea …
Andrea Benesso 1:55
So, henre we are sorry for.
Carlton Reid 1:57
That’s okay. You have important guests.
So good to meet you. Thank you for
Andrea Benesso 2:04
thanks to you for being here.
Carlton Reid 2:05
Oh, that’s okay. So this is really new, like a week.
Andrea Benesso 2:09
Actually is the first day because we opened 15 days ago, but then COVID
There was a COVID problem with the staff. Okay, so
today is the second day yesterday was the first one.
Carlton Reid 2:25
So you are quite busy for being very, very new.
Andrea Benesso 2:28
Yeah, it is very good too. Yesterday it was also the first event with a bike traveller, and we had 300 people here. It was super cool evening. Very nice.
Carlton Reid 2:39
Who was the bike traveller?
Andrea Benesso 2:40
Is Lorenzo Barona. He travelled from South Africa to Siberia.
This year, and then three years ago, he pedalled the inci barrier during the winter is a super tough and super nice guy, but he’s very young. He’s 26 years old, but he has already a lot of stories to tell and also is an inspiration.
Carlton Reid 3:03
Like my son, my son, he’s 25. And he is in Morocco right now?
Andrea Benesso 3:07
Really? Great. Yeah, great.
Carlton Reid 3:10
So this is the fourth third cafe?
Andrea Benesso 3:14
Actually is the second one because the first one is in Padova.
This there is another one but I very small in in Tuscany …
The second one is in Tuscany, but it’s very small. It’s more like it’s more like a shop than a cafe. And then there is another one in Barcelona, which actually is the first one but it’s not.
the ownership is not from by Eroica. It’s something is a little bit different. I can say that this is the second one.
Carlton Reid 3:56
Is it a
name a brand name or owned by one company?
Andrea Benesso 4:02
Yeah, one company, one company, one company. Yeah. And half of this company is Eroica and the other half is
an entrepreneur of
food and beverage
Carlton Reid 4:19
Who’s that? Who’s the who’s the partner?
Andrea Benesso 4:22
The name of the family is Totaro.
Carlton Reid 4:26
with the event,
so you kind of make money on the event only at certain times. This makes money throughout the year. Is that the reason for cafes or what there is a cultural reason.
Andrea Benesso 4:42
First of all, it’s a very nice story to tell because, you know, the founder of Eroica is Giancarlo Brocci is a journalist. Yeah, he’s an extraordinary man with a lot of stories. It’s very interesting person. And he always is he has a nicer about it because he says that we
When he was a really little kid, I mean, three years ago, four or three years old, four years old, old, he was already able to read. And he did Tuscany of 60 years ago. And most of the people was unable to read. And so they old man, T two came on the cafe over the, you know, the old Cafe Italian Cafe era, to read the Gazzetta dello Sport about cycling. Because, you know, 60 years ago cycling in Italy was was everything more than football more than politics more than everything. So Brocci grew up reading Gazzetta dello Sport to the farmers and very humble people unable to read reading about Coppi and Bartali and Tour de France and everything else. So great.
So when Giancarlo grew up and become a man, he invented Eroica and the roots of Eroica was in a cafe. Because his first experience about cycling was reading newspapers about Coppi and Bartali in a cafe in in Tuscany. So the idea of taking back right corner on a cafe was there since the beginning. Okay, and so the idea behind that Eroica Cafe is to take this spirit, these emotions, you know, it’s very traditional of the values of historical cycling the values of historical cyclists back here and in Milan is very interesting, because you know, Milan is like London, you know, everything is very fast about business.
But the idea is to take here, also the idea to take time for your passions, for values to meet people to enjoy food to enjoy a coffee, and wine. It’s not all about cycling is, is especially about one viva, you know, it’s while leaving.
Carlton Reid 7:08
Yes. So that moved on my next question. I guess you’re not just attracting cyclists here. These are people who are probably not cyclists.
Andrea Benesso 7:15
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Carlton Reid 7:18
It’s a way of branding it and
is an aesthetic to attract a general.
Andrea Benesso 7:31
Exactly. You said. You said that perfectly. I mean, that cycling, is this a starting point?
To speak about everything about life, you know that the claim of Eroica is?
Common with me because I don’t remember exactly in English is.
Yeah, exactly. You know,
moving to the cafe
is the beauty. Exactly, and the trailer with a common question, and this is about cycling. But is this about life, you know, it’s not only cycling. So what we like to do is to take people here, and to enjoy this value, even if you’re another cyclist. But a cycling is a starting point, because it’s fascinating.
Carlton Reid 8:18
But in Italy, do you think the general population and I’m talking to like a UK perspective? Yeah, where a cycling cafe would not be terribly exciting to a general population. But do you think in Italy, because maybe cycling and the sport of cycling is more recognised? This is more mainstream that it would be an analyst difficult question, but it’s more mainstream in Italy than perhaps it would be in another country?
Andrea Benesso 8:43
I have to say that in Italy, we have a stronger you have a stronger roots on cycling
on a cultural point of view, because of you know, Giro d’Italia is something that when I was a kid a little too, a little kid, I saw that every day on on TV, because for my father, it was a tradition, you know,
Carlton Reid 9:04
You’re a cyclist?
Andrea Benesso 9:05
And, and for every men of my age, and or even older or younger, to see Giro d’Italia is a tradition that you can’t avoid.
And so it’s it’s true that in Italy, cycling is for everyone. If you’re even if you’re another cyclists, you know what we are talking about. But I think that now, everywhere in the world, I also in England, in England, I was there a month ago. I think that more and more cycling is, is becoming global because it’s
isn’t not more about racing. It’s about enjoying life, enjoy moments,
being good and
Doing good moments with friends so or even alone, but you know when when you’re alone and you feel good on a bike, you’re living good.
Carlton Reid 10:08
So dolce vita?
Andrea Benesso 10:10
Carlton Reid 10:11
So what was this building before?
Andrea Benesso 10:14
Yes, very fun.
Carlton Reid 10:17
There’s an auto on the …
Andrea Benesso 10:19
Yeah, exactly. It was a traditional shop of
motor and bike pieces.
motorbike or motorbike. Motorbike a PC is very can be in Italian in English. Exactly. You know when you small parts.
Carlton Reid 10:37
Andrea Benesso 10:39
Yeah, accessory. Exactly. So it’s very fun because we decided to take the
brand outside to leave it here because it’s fun to to read from cars to bike. You know, it’s a it’s a nice and fun evolution. Yes, yes, absolutely.
Carlton Reid 10:59
Swords to Ploughshares.
Andrea Benesso 11:01
Yeah. And also the details that you can see inside this one. And this one is old. It’s the old elements of the of the traditional shop.
Carlton Reid 11:13
Okay. And then you have bikes hanging on the wall, some some new bikes, the Canyon.
Andrea Benesso 11:19
Yeah, yeah, sure.
Carlton Reid 11:19
That’s obviously a new gravel bike.
Andrea Benesso 11:22
Yeah, because Eroica is not only classical bikes, but it’s also gravel bikes. It’s also modern cycling, but it’s also with
traditional style. I mean that even if you bike, if you buy a carbon gravel bike from a Canyon, or from Colnago, that’s okay. But we ask you to pedal it with Eroica style. I mean, enjoy your moment. Enjoy your life. And after the ride, have a beer with your friends, meet people.
Carlton Reid 11:56
It’s more than 25 years old now. It’s been a surprising amount of time.
Andrea Benesso 12:01
Yeah, it’s 25. This is the 25th year of Eroica is very good.
Celebration is it was this year.
There were 9500 people taking part to Eroica in Gaiole. And we are talking about one one of the greatest nonprofit cycling event in the world. With people coming from everywhere in the world, more than half of the people was from abroad. And that means that your that you had the possibility to meet their people from Japan that took one week to come there to find an historical bike to pedal and it’s you know, it’s a very stronger
Carlton Reid 12:54
The strade bianche, you can you can there’s a on the website, you can ride the route, even when it’s not the event.
Sure, you can the event it the route is mapped.
Andrea Benesso 13:01
And yeah, because this is the this is very important because it is not only an event, it’s a community movement, if I can say that. So it’s important to say to everyone that
Eroica one, first of all to promote
an area which is Tuscany, and style. And you can do that every time in during the year not only during the event.
Gaiole in Chianti, which is the main stage, I can say that to have the Eroica is a very small community and town. But now it’s an international, small town about cycling. Everyone in the world knows. Everyone in the world knows that Gaiole in Chianti thanks to Eroica.
Carlton Reid 13:49
And so this is a gravel bike. So strade bianche, gravel roads.
Andrea Benesso 13:54
Carlton Reid 13:54
So this was this is many, many years before gravel cycling.
Andrea Benesso 13:59
Carlton Reid 14:00
Gravel cycling is way ahead of the trend. But you’re also you’re in other countries. So on the placemat here. You’re talking about other countries you’ve expanded to. Yes, South Africa …
Andrea Benesso 14:14
Yeah, a lot of countries.
I don’t know remember exactly the number I think more than 15 countries in the world, California, Japan, South Africa,
Carlton Reid 14:25
Andrea Benesso 14:27
Eroica Britannia and
yeah, that is
you know, a symbol in some way of how these values are international are not Italian are for everyone. Every cyclists can enjoy this kind of
way to pedal and to enjoy moments.
Carlton Reid 14:53
Where do you come from so we know where the buildings come from, but where have you come from?
Andrea Benesso 14:58
Ciao. Ciao ciao. I’m from Padova
Carlton Reid 15:05
Workwise What were you doing before this?
Andrea Benesso 15:08
I, I work for Eroica.
Carlton Reid 15:15
Andrea Benesso 15:15
I work organisation already.
No Eroica I, the first,
the founders of Eroica are from Tuscany. Giancarlo Brocci is the first one is the real founder. There are now many people that work for for Eroica, right the family is so big family now.
Carlton Reid 15:37
How many people?
Andrea Benesso 15:41
I don’t know exactly the name the number. But
in only in Italy, I can say more than 10.
And if you consider also Eroica caffe, I can say more than 30 people.
So it’s like a
big family. And what I can say about that is that you can feel that to every people that work in Eroical family is very passionate about the Eroica, even if you’re some people inside the Eroica family is not a cyclist, but it’s not, it doesn’t matter.
Carlton Reid 16:18
And then the model is your first days loads last night was an event. So this is what you plan to do your hang ups.
Andrea Benesso 16:29
Yes. You can imagine right a cafe as something with the two souls and one is on our cafe and restaurant, where you, you can come here and enjoy the food or Ryan or a cafe. And the other one is cultural space, cultural space where you can enjoy events, or bike rides, or
that we build for every
kind of cyclist, road cyclists, gravel cyclists or bike travellers,
urban cyclists, we have to, we want to we want to be the house of every kind of cyclists, every kind of people that use bikes. You’re during his day, and your race is life.
Carlton Reid 17:21
Are there plans for, say, Rome, other cities.
Andrea Benesso 17:25
Yeah, we plan to expand to everywhere in Europe, and also
the States. Eroica Caffe is a big, really big project. Wow. Yeah, there’s a while.
Carlton Reid 17:37
And then you mentioned the urban cyclists. So tell me about, like cycling in Milan, and maybe how it’s, you tell me if it’s changed?
How is cycling here in the city? Is it improving?
for urban cyclists?
Andrea Benesso 17:54
Yeah, it’s improving a lot is not
Carlton Reid 17:59
Such any roads. I was on a bike lane all the way here.
Andrea Benesso 18:01
It changed a lot during the last five years. Also, thanks to the last
mayor that was here some minutes ago. And the cycling community is really important, and only in Milan. More and more people
here are using bike bikes to move in the city. So we have a community, a big community, made by different people, I mean, you can find the urban commuters and then
people that use cargo bikes to deliveries, and then
classical road cyclists, and then gravel bikers, every kind of cyclists, the community is getting bigger. And I think that after COVID bike is now our concrete option to move in the city is something that I saw in London for example, I noticed that more and more people are
so that and realise that bike is
often the best solution to move in the city.
Carlton Reid 19:20
I am 20 minutes away by by walking. So I was looking on my app should I cycle here should I walk, you know, get my bike out, my bike at the exact all these things I’m thinking about but then there’s the will I can see within about five minutes if I cycle so that’s just for me a no brainer. I got many things to do today. So I will cycle to get here and then I was wonderfully surprised by how many nice bike lanes that were. So So I got like a the breeze, but it is cold right now. Anybody who thinks that you know I’m in Milan and I’m sunningg myself I’m not it is cold here as in the UK, yet there are still
So lots of people cycling. Yeah, they’ve wrapped up incredibly warming at Woodlands. And just as you would be in, in northern Europe, you know, way Northern Europe.
So that’s been surprising that people are cycling. Clearly year round. It’s not a summer thing.
Andrea Benesso 20:15
Yeah, yeah. Cycle all the time. Yeah, yeah, this is
an evolution that I saw during the last three or four years
here need to do we realise that biking is possible also during the winter, I, in my opinion, I can say that it’s better in the winter, if you have to go gloating, then in the summer, when, you know, when it’s very hot, it’s hot. You can have you can escape, you can’t escape.
Carlton Reid 20:45
So what can the municipality do to improve things for cyclists? What because they there’s some bike lanes, I’m guessing they’re not everywhere. So there are some major ones on the major routes, they put bike lanes in, but what else could the municipality do?
Andrea Benesso 21:00
some very complicated matter matter, because, you know, it’s about safety, it’s about culture, it’s about offering people inter modality, if I can say that showed the possibility to take the biker on the underground on the train on the buses. So, I think that you can, you have to work on the bike lanes, build the spaces, where you can cycling safe, but you have to work also on the cultural side,
saying by saying to people that biker is
useful, is some is faster, is cheaper, that is, is almost always the better solution. And it’s not simple to do that because if you speak with a cyclist, you know, you seem immediately it can understand that. But if you if you think if you speak with a peep with a man of 50 years old,
who always used car is not easy to to convince him to switch to a tall bike younger people you think that the younger people is easier in my opinion, because they they are growing up with
there they are aware about, you know, the climate issues, and they are not so for them, it’s not important to have a car as a status symbol.
In my opinion, young people
under already understood that we have to convince adults about switching they are about changing their lifestyle.
Carlton Reid 22:51
At this point, I’d like to get across my colleague David for a short ad break.
David Bernstein 22:56
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Carlton Reid 24:05
Thanks David. And we are back in the Eroica cafe in Milan with Andrea Benesso. And if there were no cars here in such a dream world, would it be very easy to cycle everywhere in Milan Anyway Is it a good city for getting around on a bike?
Andrea Benesso 24:23
Yes, perfect. It is completely flat is more is really small because if you compare Milan to London for example, I don’t know exactly but I think that is
very very small. By in half an hour you can cross Milan.
Everything is very close.
And also a nice thing to say that it is that you feel go outside to Milan in 20 minutes you are in the countryside. So why not?
Carlton Reid 24:55
You will have road groups leaving from the shop?
Andrea Benesso 24:58
Yeah, we’re going out
you plan to do normally it’s probably not know yet, but we are working to do that every week there are there are also other bikes in Milan that are already doing that because it’s nice, you know, to, to enjoy cycling with our friends and to go on the countryside also even in the mountains, going into the mountains from here is not too far it’s something more than an hour by bike.
Carlton Reid 25:26
And where exactly are we? Maybe such that’s a strange question to ask this this for it, but where are we in Milan?
Andrea Benesso 25:34
We are close to the train main train station. So it’s a very one of the most important point of the cities and we are five minutes by bike from the Duomo 10 minutes, you know,
Carlton Reid 25:47
that’s what I’m doing afterwards. I’m gonna
Andrea Benesso 25:48
Yeah, exactly is everything is very close. Yet. This is also
up now, Mara with the city that is becoming more and more cool.
So it’s interesting to be here, it’s a good point for for a bike cafe.
Carlton Reid 26:06
And then I mentioned there that if you remove the cars that other cities are doing that in Paris is doing this and removing parking places and living cars. Is Milan, does Milan have that meant to the municipality? Do they not only want to encourage cycling and encourage walking but also have in their mind that we must actually reduce the number of cars? Do you see that as a concept?
Andrea Benesso 26:33
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we were talking about that with the mayor of the city just yeah, half an hour ago. And it’s
this is the point. Because you have to
push people to use the bike. But you have also to
Carlton Reid 26:51
the carrot and the stick.
Andrea Benesso 26:52
Yeah, exactly. The carrot and the stick is perfectly.
Carlton Reid 26:56
But when you talk to the mayor, that is something that you can talk to the mayor about. And the mayor will say yes, this is what we want to do.
Andrea Benesso 27:05
Yeah, sure. The mayor told told us that he wants to reduce the number of cars in Milan.
And if if you want to if you want to do that, if you are have this goal, you have to do many things.
Carlton Reid 27:22
But when in other cities, other mayors
even breath such a concept, they may not get voted in this next time. So this is very political.
Andrea Benesso 27:36
Yeah, it’s very political.
Carlton Reid 27:37
See, he doesn’t envisage any. He thinks this is a vote winner?
Andrea Benesso 27:43
I don’t know. I don’t know. But you have to be. I think that a good politician has to be brave now, right now, not only about cycling, but also about the environment,
about the quality of life. You have to be brave and to change things, even if maybe a lot of a lot of people won’t be happy about that.
Carlton Reid 28:07
Then many people wouldn’t be happy about that. But maybe the older people
don’t know. We’re all older.
Andrea Benesso 28:14
Yeah, I suppose. Because I hope you know, for me, I have two kids. And I hope that for them that we as generation
of adults will be able to change something. We can’t leave to our children this world like that.
More coffee shops, less cars.
Carlton Reid 28:40
Bicycle themed coffee shops, less cars.
Andrea Benesso 28:43
Carlton Reid 28:45
Thanks to Andrea Banesso there and thanks to you for listening to Episode 316 of the spokesmen podcast.Details about Eroica cafes can be found on the show notes at the -spokesmrn.com. The next episode will also be Milan shaped. But meanwhile, get out there and ride.