For Italy's Alessandro De Rose the stunning mountain massif of Gargano was the last stop on his road trip across his native country ahead of this weekend's stop of the World Series. From the spur on the Italian boot with its typical coastline of limestone along crystal clear waters, the 25-year-old returned to the place where houses rise from the cliffs and he scored his personal best result with a 4th place last year. In the spot where the champions have been most successful to date, the wildcard divers are also expected to shine. Besides the Italian, it is Anna Bader from Germany, who came back with a Portuguese podium after her baby break, as well as Russia's Artem Silchenko, who aims for a record third win in Polignano a Mare.
De Rose is the only Italian competing in the third round of the 2017 season and he started the trip in his adopted home Trieste in the North, where he dived from the marvellous Duino Castle. For the dive from the private residence overlooking the sea, the Cosenza-born athlete was joined by exceptional local diver Pino Auber, who began diving at the age of 57 and has secured many Master wins at the European and World High Diving Championships.
The trip continued at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Porto Venere on the Ligurian coast, Bagni di Lucca's Canyon Park and the 31m high bridge at the Fjord of Furore at the Amalfi coast to demonstrate his stunning dives.
"It was definitely excellent training before the World Series in Polignano, as you need to practise your dives over and over again until the body memorises every single movement so that your execution during competitions becomes mechanic and your mind remains clear, "explains De Rose, "this chance to practise the whole dive is a real privilege that will ensure I arrive even better prepared."
Italian cliff diving hero De Rose inspects the inside of Grotta dei Pipistrelli (Cave of Bats) on the final leg of his Road to Polignano. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool.
Two stops into the 2017 season, the standings in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series are tight as the reigning champions both had to let others pass to take victory in the previous stop. Six-time champion Gary Hunt struggled with the natural terrain of the Azores and doesn't feel on top of his game nursing an injury.
As Italy marks the third stop in only five weeks, the podium will be reserved for the fittest on the tour – also in the women's. Reigning rookie champion Rhiannan Iffland from Australia, who didn't make the podium for the first time in nine events with a fifth place in Portugal, is dealing with an adductors injury.
Returning for a fifth time to the sport's European home, the cliff diving elite will leap from a private balcony into a sea of passionate fans from up to 27m this Sunday.
If you missed any of his journey, you can view all the stops on De Rose's Road to Polignano below.
The first location chosen was the marvellous Duino Castle, a private residence overlooking the sea. Just a few kilometres from county capital Trieste, it has belonged to the Princely House of Thurn und Taxis for over 400 years. "I couldn't have started my road to Polignano anywhere else," declared De Rose with emotion after his performance. "Trieste is my city now."
De Rose arrived in Porto Venere for his second stop, where he dived from the marvelous rocks facing the blue water of the Ligurian Sea. Porto Venere, a jewel of the Ligurian coast thanks to its touristic harbour and colourful houses, has been declared a World heritage site by UNESCO.
Bagni di Lucca
In the Canyon Park of Bagni di Lucca, the Italian added another stop on his Road to Polignano as he dived into the blue water of the Lima river, taking off from a 21 metre high bridge suspended between two rocks surrounded by the wild nature of the Strette di Cocciglia's canyon. "It's an incredible experience to dive here," said Alessandro, "you are completely surrounded by nature. It's a real paradise."
De Rose arrived at his final final stop before Puglia, a place famous for high-diving: the Fjord of Furore on the Amalfi Coast. The bridge that he dived from is suspended at 31 metres between two rocky cliff edges overlooking the narrow strip of crystal-clear water in the valley below. "I was very excited before the dive: it was the first time that I have dived from here and 31 metres is more than the competition standard of 27 metres that I am used to. It was definitely excellent training as the World Series in Polignano approaches.
Watch Live from Polignano a Mare
This event will be LIVE on July 23 from 15.45 local time (13.45 GMT) on www.redbullcliffdiving.com, Red Bull TV and Facebook. Red Bull TV is available on connected TVs, gaming consoles, mobile devices and more. Find out more at about.redbull.tv
If you miss the event or simply want to watch all the action again, the replay will be available on demand a few minutes after the event.