December 2, 2009

Saving Pepé

Living & working in a city like Florence puts certain demands on you physically. I learned this very quickly after moving here. I used to run every night along the Arno River, to enjoy this magical city at sunset,to be the first American to move to Italy and lose weight..... until of course reality set in : The streets here are uneven. bumpy. vecchio (old) molto vecchio!!

I hurt my ankle within the first month, and have really struggled to get myself around since. My friend Elia has been telling me since day one to get a bike, but I was afraid because the streets are so narrow, and people drive like maniacs (on scooters, cars and buses). I went to a few so called bike shops in my neighborhood, probably all stolen (which is a popular business in Florence), although none of them were remotely nice to me.

I had a dinner party one night, where Elia and her amazing friend from LA, Lisa came over. I was complaining about needing a bike and Lisa jumped out of her chair and said "Yes! You can rescue Pepé!!". She used to live in Florence, and will always have a special place in her heart for this incredible city. She was visiting Elia for a few days, and just so happen to go look for her old bike in Porta Romana (a Florentine neighborhood across the river). Pepe was still in the courtyard safe and sound where Lisa left him years ago. She wrote down the address and told me, "Just go there and you will find him, he needs a good owner".

One night I took a walk, a very long one, to Porta Romana. Walked into this courtyard, and found this cute rusty red bike, just waiting to be saved. It was still chained on one tire, so I had no idea how I was going to set it free. I picked up the bike and walked out onto the street. (People had to think I was stealing it). I turned around to see a typical Italian man : Hat, three piece sweater suit, belt, tailored pants, and a gray curly moustache, sounds like a mechanic right? Yes, he was exactly what I needed. He pulled out some mechanical saw, broke the chain, and Pepe was mine!

Having a bike in Florence is liberating. There is no other way to describe it. I can bike from end to end in 10 minutes & absorb the incredible beauty of my surroundings. Pepe now has a new white basket, clean tires and brand new brakes.

I am so thankful for the unparalleled good luck I have been having here. Meeting the right people at the right time, and having fun doing it. Long live Pepé !

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