Saturday, June 25, 2011

More Room to Pedal!

"Se non pedali non sta in equilibrio".  These are the words of Matteo Renzi, sindaco of Florence, who has revolutionized the city over the past year by closing major streets and piazzas to motorized traffic. Translated into English, it means that you need to ride your bike to maintain an equilibrium!

And he has stood behind his words. After months of planning and publicity, yesterday, Florence celebrated and implemented the closing of some very strategic thoroughfares, including Via Tornabuoni and Palazzo Pitti, diverting traffic around, rather than through the city.  What a grand feat.  Many of the streets have been completely closed to motor vehicles, others have been transformed from two-way streets to one-way streets and many have changed direction.  While motorists and merchants are adjusting, Florence is overjoyed and proud.  A triumph for Florence's future by bringing back the streets of the past.

It was a joy to ride around the nearly traffic-free city on this great Feast Day of San Giovanni.  Less noise, cleaner air, easy-going and calm.  Strolling and pedaling along the once frenetic streets was like rising into heaven and floating on a cloud, making it easy to imagine the Florence of yesteryear, when the only mode of transportation was on foot and horseback.    Florence just gets better by the day.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Already Summer?

It's my birthday. Which always makes me think where I've been, where I am, and where I have to go.

Hard to believe the summer is here, when I never even had the chance to write about the spring.

So far this year, I have guided 60 bike tours. I have had 2 bikes stolen. I have seen 7 concerts, 4 operas and 2 plays.  I had a major flood in my apartment.  Last month in the White Salon of the splendid Villa del Poggio Imperiale, I was a guest at a tribute celebrating one of the world's most famed opera critics, who over the past 3 years has become a part of my family. I have celebrated 14 festivals and holidays. There is always a feast being celebrated here. There's another very significant one coming up on Friday. The whole city has off for the Festa di San Giovanni, in honor of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence.  Begining with religious ceremonies and Mass at the Duomo, a parade of the great Florentine families, events, music and dancing all over the city all day long, followed by a crazy bloody soccer game and a spectacular fireworks display on the Arno at night.

I have fallen more and more in love with Florence and Tuscany every single day.

And so far this year I've been to 3 sagre, have rode a few thousand miles, have volunteered for my team's annual raduno. I have rode a few radunos and fondos myself. I have been visited by family and friends from all over. Next week expecting a former colleague from New York who I have not seen in 9 years.

I have gained 3 (ok, well maybe 4) pounds. But my perspective on weight, along with other life philosphies has changed. Perhaps I should not say how many bottles of wine and pounds of pasta I have eaten.

The tourist season is at its height. There is so much going on in Florence, there is no way to even keep up with the festivities.

And my short term plan is to (finally) follow the rest of Italy "al mare" in August to spend some time in Lacco Ameno on the island of Ischia where my famly originated. To enjoy its thermal springs and beaches, to eat mussels, fried anchovies and grilled sardines on the sail around the island imagining what it was like for my grandfather to have been a fisherman there in the 1800's. There I plan to start writing a book on how I obtained my Italian citizenship because that is where it all started.

Loving and missing all my friends, family and cycling buddies from the past who got me here.