Italian Ramble
I had one question before my daughter and went to Italy for a month. What could I possibly do with a three-year-old in tow: someone too small to enjoy the sights, someone too young to appreciate the local art and food? Get a bike and ride! This turned out to be a great solution. We borrowed my cousin's bike and tooled around at a perfect pace for us both. I bought a front-mounted seat that allowed me and my daughter to discuss the sights, smells, and foreign noises. We had an endless dialogue about everything.

What I saw in our travels were the practical bikes of Italy. Mountain bikes are popular with teenagers, and road bikes certainly have their niche. But the everyday bikes of the postal carrier, garbage collector, young mother, older gentleman, and middle-class preteen were solid, humble bikes, equipped with skirt guards, fenders, bells, and baskets. Pragmatic vehicles that allowed their riders calmly to attend to business and pleasure. These bikes were dependable, colorful, and well-loved...a lot like the people who rode them. I hope my daughter has a closer relationship to Italy and its people. I think the bike had everything to do with it.

Text & photos by Liza Mattana, August 2006; photographed in Spring 2006.