Downhill in bella Italia

PUBLISHED: 13:56 04 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:14 20 February 2013

Downhill in bella Italia

Downhill in bella Italia

When in Rome - mind out for the novice English cyclist, says Ginny Davis

When in Rome - mind out for the novice English cyclist, says Ginny Davis

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. (proverb) Good idea but, come to think of it, what do modern Romans do? Recently, Husband and I visited Lucca in northern Tuscany, a walled town within which we imagined ourselves strolling from latte to prosecco, taking in gelati, medieval churches and fountains en route.

However, Lucca is flat and we discovered that the popular way to sightsee is by bike. Alarming news. Husband is not a natural cyclist. He was taught the basics at the age of 33 by his younger sister. By then he was six foot three and unblessed with a sense of balance or danger.

Nevertheless, the when in Rome ... spirit kicked in and we hired a couple of bikes to ride around the perimeter walls and take in views of beautiful buildings and gardens. Husband wobbled a bit at first but picked up speed and sufficient confidence to divert his gaze from the path to the pick up point for the airport coaches.

So intense was his focus on this landmark, he failed to observe a pedestrian ahead and only avoided a nasty collision by a last minute swerve which was followed by an exchange of opinions as to whose fault it had been.

It was sheer bad luck that Husbands bike had no brakes. Doubly so that he only discovered the fact as he accelerated down an incline towards the main road. Theyre full on. He called as he sped downhill.

Six foot three means long legs and but for the fact that his sandal was caught in the pedal he would have been able to drag his foot to stop. Having discovered that swearing doesnt affect speed one way or the other he ended up untidily at the edge of the highway. Undaunted, we left the path and rode on into town.

My husbands tolerance threshold for the tendency of pedestrians to stop and veer to left or right without giving hand signals turned out to be low. One option might have been to give up, get off and push. But, dammit, wed paid for the bikes and, crucially, he also found his bell, so with thumb poised for action, he changed down a gear and, there is no other word for it, hurtled without the power or inclination to brake, through the ancient streets.

Leaving a wake of destruction and wonder behind him, he pinged his bell continuously as he made his chaotic progress around the town, careering off walls and brushing ice creams out of the grasp of young children. When he needed to stop, and frequently even when he didnt, he steered into buildings and crashed off sideways.

Mothers pulled their offspring aside, locals flattened themselves against shop windows, rolled their eyes and uttered words we were unable to find in the phrasebook later on. I can honestly say Ive never laughed so much in my life. Fortune smiles upon the man who can laugh at himself (another proverb) and Husband joins in every time I, performing every part with only the merest exaggeration, recount the tale.

Ginny Davis is a writer and performer specialising in comedic one-woman shows on the subject of contemporary family life.


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