Florence draws artists from all over the world, but this amusing little man is a humble local who literally pedals his art with a passion. I've seen him from a distance a few times, but never really looked to see just what he was doing. With the Uffizi only 10 meters away, he doesn't draw much attention from the crowds perhaps because he appears bizarre from a distance, but he is always peacefully absorbed and working in his own space and solitude.
Today coming out of the Uffizi after a short visit, I saw him on the river and my curiosity drew me to take a closer look. His name is Fabio and he lives outside of Florence with his mother, who darned and designed his hat in the motif of the Duomo! Unemployed, he lives his passion with art on two wheels. His bicycle is set up as a portable art studio. The components for his art supplies are primitively rigged up to his bike with string, glue and ropes. He uses an old piece of metal cantilevered over the saddle as his easel to support the tiny rocks that he paints with miniature images of Florence's monuments. He had an IPod set up with speakers, playing soft music. He was simple, passionate and happily engrossed in his art.
I spent some time watching him playfully painting and singing, and he explained his technique to me, using acrylic paint, which was interesting albeit simple. I selected a rock with a painting of the Duomo and handed him 20 Euro. He said that it was a "regalo"....(a gift). I insisted on paying him, and he said that it was only 1 Euro. I put the 20 Euro in his pocket and promised to visit him again.
I continue to find more and more reasons why I love Florence, one being because it draws such a diverse population of people who are tied by one common passion. The passion for expression and art.