Saturday, April 18, 2009

Homecoming Ride

As I opened the shutters to my bedroom window, the gray clouds hung low in the sky and the pigeons were flying above, suggesting rain. If this was San Clemente, I might just wait until the following day for a bike ride, but here, you take a gamble, your windbreaker, and "si fa gli scongiuri" (keep your fingers crossed). You might not get another chance to ride for days if you wait for the perfect day. I was excited to ride with my new group again. I called Rebecca to make sure that the pending rain would not stop her from riding, and set out to meet her.

The streets were quiet and empty on an early Saturday morning. Everyone sleeps late here, digesting their late-night dinners and wine. As I navigated the shaky, dangerous, uneven cobblestone obstacle course, I felt that same thrilling sensation akin to dodging taxis and busses in New York City. There's something about that feeling that you can't really explain. Kind of like being a sneaky little kid on a skateboard.

I headed through Piazza Santa Croce to Ponte alle Grazie (the bridge next to the Ponte Vecchio) and rode along the Arno to Piazza Poggi….and there I could see Rebecca awaiting me in the distance. We shared homecoming hugs and smiles and I felt animated and happy to see her. A minute later, Lorenzo appeared with Niccola, and together we climbed the ramps to Piazza Michelangelo and headed for Tavanuzze to meet the rest of the squad. A half hour later upon arriving in Tavarnuzze, the clouds had become increasingly threatening and nobody else showed up. So we played it by ear and modified the course to try to avoid the rain clouds.

We climbed up to San Casciano, through the vineyards and magnificent Tuscan landscape. I was feeling strong, but was afraid that my jet lag would soon take over. I knew my body was exhausted, but my passion drove me excitedly up every hill. As I gazed at my Garmin, I realized it was still set on Pacific Time and displayed miles, not kilometers. It was hard to believe that it was just a few days ago that I was riding my last ride with dear Susan in San Clemente.

We added an extra climb and then headed back to Florence, for a total trip of 53 miles, where we stopped for a caffe at Piazza Michelangelo. Seeing again the glorious sight of Florence from the top of the hill sent chills up my spine. As Lorenzo rode back home with me, I stopped by the outdoor flower market to say hello to Giovanni, the animated little flower vendor who often gives me free bunches of sunflowers. It felt great to see him again…another familiar face on my street.

The moment I entered my apartment, the sky opened up and it started to pour. Perfect timing. And a good excuse to spend the rest of the day nesting, unpacking and cleaning, while watching the ongoing news of the aftermath of the Abruzzo earthquake. Then I watched my favorite show, "L'eredita" with Carlo Conti.

My wireless internet, which was not working when I got here yesterday, suddenly came back to life.

I did a wash. It continues to amaze me that Italian washing machines are so small, yet it takes 2 hours to accomplish a single washing cycle. Then I hung my clothes to dry on the drying rack in my bedroom, since it was raining outside.

It is evening. I have spent the whole afternoon unpacking and nesting. My fridge is quite empty, I am hungry, it's almost 11pm, and Standa, the local supermarket is closed. I guess I have no choice other than to take a short 20 pace stroll to I Ghibellini to order a pizza Margherita "portare via" (to go). The street side tables are outside again, not the way I left them in January, all stored inside for the winter. The restaurant owners recognized me and we talked about the soccer game as I awaited my pizza. It was raining and the air was filled with the smell of cigarette smoke. Whoever thinks the Italians have stopped smoking is wrong.

My legs got a good workout today. The ride was hilly, and the 4 flights of 52 stairs to my apartment is a workout in itself. Especially when you're carrying a bike.

I stayed up very late…until 3:00 AM, unpacking, sorting, organizing…..getting settled…..feeling like only good things are in store for me here in Florence!

Buona notte.