New day, new country: I am now in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). This is not just any beach. This is Guanabara Bay, perhaps the most beautiful bay in the world. When my fellow-Italian Amerigo Vespucci, who was in charge of the Portuguese fleet, discovered this place, on a January morning five hundred years ago, he wondered at the incredible steepness of its many peaks and "sugar loaves"; he noticed that his ship wasn't making any progress because of a strong underwater stream; he concluded - as many would have done in his place - that he had entered the mouth of a river and duly noted his discovery in the ship's log. Years later, when the Portuguese returned, this time to stay, they found the same bay but no river. None at all. So, when they built a city around it, they called it "Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro". "Sao" meant "Saint" (to please the Church), "Sebastiao" was the name of the Portuguese king, "Rio de Janeiro" just meant "River of January".
Lucky guy, Amerigo. One of the most beautiful cities in the world is named after his river-that-never-was, just as his name is written all over a continent he did not discover!
I'm running near the soccer fields near the Praia do Flamenco. It's early on a Sunday morning, but the fields are mostly occupied by tomorrow's champions. A few of them are very good. My mind drifts back to the final game of the World Soccer Championship back in 1970 when Brazil beat Italy 4-1. I was ten years old and as biased as I could be, but I couldn't help admiring the feline power of the Brazilian players as they ran circles around our great team.
Some cities were built at the expense of their settings. Rome, for example, towers over its famous seven hills. Not Rio. The impression I get when I come here is one of untamed nature. Its cliffs are just too steep to be conquered and so the city was built around them in patches. A wild jungle behind it seems to be waiting for an opportunity to throw this human settlement back into the Ocean.
I'm feeling the airplane miles, but I resist the urge to walk and opt for some speed play instead. One minute fast, one minute slow. In my mind I'm one of those Brazilian soccer champions: when I'm running slowly it's feline power in check and when I'm running fast it's feline power let loose. Well, maybe it doesn't look exactly like that from the outside, but it's the way I'm beginning to feel inside as I'm sweating my jet lag away. That's what counts.
Sugar Loaf. The first time I came to Rio I took the cable car to the top and watched the sunset from there. I can't find that sunset in any postcard picture. The colors may be there, together with a lot of details I left out, but the image in my memory is far more vivid: steepness from peak to ocean and depth from peak to peak. Nature as perfect as it comes. Buildings insignificant below. No human hand will ever be able to ruin this place.
A tropical sun is climbing up quickly. In a few hours it will be almost directly overhead but slightly to the North. That takes some getting used to for anybody living in the northern emisphere. I'm heading for Praia Vermelha, a quiet little beach in the middle of a huge city and a fishermen's haven on the edge of a wild ocean. It's sheltered between the Sugar Loaf and a cliff. Beyond that cliff are the twin beaches of Leme and Copacabana, with their glory, crowds and noise. Not for me. I'll have my Brazilian coffee on Praia Vermelha, the most unassuming and the nicest spot in town.
Giorgio Pogliano’s morning coffee doesn’t come in a cup, but he can still find it everywhere. Running each morning is his daily “coffee” – it gives him the surge of energy, something good to reflect upon during the day, and a reason to look forward to tomorrow. Just like the different types of coffee found around the world, Giorgio finds different surroundings as he runs.