To Ride or Not to Ride?
When we tell people we have a home in Italy, we are often asked, “Why Italy?". A lifelong cyclist, it’s no wonder Italy is so appealing to me and a big part of our ‘why Italy’.
First, cycling is a revered sport here. It is the 3rd most popular sport behind auto racing (#1) and calcio/soccer (#2). Everyone, whether they cycle or not, has an appreciation and understanding of the sport. This goes a long way into how cyclists are seen and perceived.
Second, and equally important, is the history of bike racing here. In a sense, the sport has ‘grown up with the country’. Developments in the sport have always been linked to cultural, economic and social change in Italy as a whole - through World Wars to present day. You would be very hard-pressed to find an Italian - young or old, cyclist or not - who does not know who Bartali or Coppi are and why they are considered heroes. Cycling IS culture here.
Third, perhaps because of the previous points, it is much safer to ride here. Cyclists are expected AND respected on the road. Despite the reputation of Italian drivers, they will slow up behind you, will rarely if ever honk at you, wait till its appropriate to pass, and give you ample room (well beyond the 3ft we would all love to see happen in the U.S.) when they pass by. In addition, the roads are, for the most part, well maintained helping to make conditions ideal.
While California has some amazing riding, there is an ever-present stress presented by cell phone distracted drivers, traffic-fatigued/road raged people behind the wheel, lost non-locals, ‘gps/waze’ navigators, and lest we forget the ‘I pay for this road and you do not’ buzzers. All of this shadows not just a day’s ride, but the entire sport itself. On the daily, riding or not has to be carefully weighed and planned - where? when? traffic? events? safe? not safe?
In Italy, there is little angst on the bike. Aside from being vigilant on blind curves and meeting up with a cingliale, while on the bike, you are left to enjoy the core of the sport - freedom, beautiful vistas, being at one with your bike, pushing yourself uphills and celebrating on the downhills. Being immersed in a sport that is understood, respected and well ensconced in the culture leaves no question as to why we are here. And the answer as to whether to ride or not, is always, RIDE.
To learn more about cycling with us in our beautiful Toscana, visit our website, BICI ITALIA.