The city of Paso Robles hosted the mayor of a small Italian city last weekend during the region’s newest cycling event inspired by a ride first held in 1997 in Italy.
L'Erocia, which means "the heroic" in Italian, is a cycling ride featuring vintage bicycles that came to the United States for the first time this year as Eroica California. The event is designed to promote the environment and a love for cycling and included bike rides and a community festival in Paso Robles' Downtown City Park.
As part of the event, Michele Pescini, the mayor of Gaiole, Italy, visited the city and exchanged gifts with Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin who said the Italian mayor gave “praise for our countryside and our wine.”
From Pescini, Martin received “a lovely watercolor scroll which depicts their countryside” that’s about 10 to 15 feet long, Martin said. “We’re going to try to put that in the library for everybody to see.”
From Martin and the community, Pescini received a lapel pin, a city flag, commemorative coins, gift bags from the Downtown Paso Robles Main Street Association and the Pioneer Museum and a gift basket from the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce.
Pescini also toured the Paso Robles Historical Society's museum and the Pioneer Museum.
Eroica California attracted 700 riders in Paso Robles, event director Wesley Hatakeyama said Thursday. An estimated 5,000 spectators also visited the event and festival over the weekend.
In Italy, the ride normally attracts 25,000 to 35,000 spectators, he added.
This was not the first time Paso Robles hosted a leader from another country. In 2008, the city hosted officials from Tarnow, Poland, when they attended Paso Robles’ annual Paderewski Festival.
The festival features a piano competition and concert each fall to celebrate renowned Polish pianist and statesman Ignacy Jan Paderewski.
Paderewski considered himself a resident of Paso Robles after growing wine grapes there during World War I.
The city has ramped up its tourism efforts in recent years and officials look for opportunities to increase Paso Robles' international exposure.