Ah, Florence–a city with so much beauty and artwork that you almost forget real people live here too. If you’re like me (a.k.a too poor or American to get an Italian driver’s license), then undoubtedly you’ve noticed what a wonderfully pedestrianized city you’re in. People strolling down quaint little side streets, apartments with flowers spilling out from the windowed terraces, and those cute little bicycles chained up to lamp posts and stacked along the sidewalks.
I woke up last week to a beautiful summer day. The sun was shining brightly, a cool breeze swept through the dust bunnies living in my hallway, and I was in high spirits. What a perfect day for a bike ride, I thought to myself happily. I think I’ll take my bike to work today. So I pulled on some leggings underneath my dress to cushion my behind and thwart any inappropriate perving up my skirt from the construction workers on my morning commute, grabbed my bicycle key, kissed Zola goodbye and headed downstairs to the bike rack where I had parked my rusty Silver steed.
As I approached the bike rack in the piazza below my apartment, I started searching for the familiar black basket and broken front brake tucked into the side wires that unmistakably identifies my hand-me-down bike. I made my way up and down the row of bicycles stacked on top of each other like drunk Jenga blocks. After the third canvassing attempt yielded no results, my good mood slowly began dissapating. Not again, I muttered to myself. Not. Fucking. Again.
Let me tell you something about owning a bicycle in Florence–it’s only a matter of time before somebody with sticky fingers snatches it right out from under your nose. To date, I have been living in Florence on and off for 5 years. In those six years, I have owned more than 10 different bicycles. Every single last one of them has not lasted more than a year, despite investing hundreds of euro in the sturdiest locks and chains I could find.
This sunny weekday morning was no different than any of the other times I had come to my parking spot only to discover my bicycle had seemingly vanished. Although in years past the thieves had been kind enough to leave the frame or a wheel behind, today’s bicycle thief had left behind no trace of my two wheels or rusted frame. But somehow, my reaction was muted, even tame in comparison to previous years. My sigh was one of resignation and acceptance, and I had finally come to accept a universal concept about having a bicycle in Florence–eventually they all leave you, just like that asshole you dated back in college who broke your heart.
So here’s to Diego, my burgandy two-wheeled friend during my semester studying abroad in 2009–when I lived behind the San Lorenzo markets and would pedal furiously home each night after getting off my waitressing shift at 3am, he always helped me avoid those unsavory characters who used to hang out in the back alleys behind the church. And Old Blue, my Summer of 2010 splurge that had such a comfortable seat that I would cycle around the Fortezza’s gardens a few times before going home just to enjoy the feeling of the wind in my hair. Here’s to Silver Sal, or as my roommate dubbed it, the Lesbian Mountaineer, my most recent and beloved bicycle with a broken front brake and hideous pink and grey paint job. And here’s to all the nameless bikes that have come and gone like silent ships in the night, only staying for weeks at a time before being whisked off to some sweatshop in Prato and resold in Bologna. Wherever you are now, I hope your new owner enjoys your sturdy frame and cushioned seat just as much as I did during our too-short time together.