At the end of our walking tour through the charming walled city of Lucca in Italy, I asked our guide Lucia if Mario Cippolini ever came back to his home town. I admit I was showing off a bit; I am certain I was the only person on the tour who knew ‘Super Mario’ was from Lucca. She does tours for English speakers and probably gets that question once a year at most.
Her response was interesting; she said he still comes to town quite a bit and has a residence there. “But some people don’t really like him”, she informed me. Then she said “I think he is a little full of himself”, displaying an excellent command of idiomatic English.
I had to chuckle at this. Mario, ‘The Lion King’, won 42 stages of the Giro d’ Italia, and 12 stages of the Tour de France. He won Milan – San Remo, Gent – Wevelgem (3 times) and the World Championship Road Race. And he is better looking than George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon put together. He would have to be a saint NOT to be a ‘little full of himself’.
Walking around Lucca is a treat. Inside the walls the streets are narrow and cobbled and most are closed to cars. Locals ride cruiser bikes to get around; with baskets to carry purchases from the bakery or small markets. And signs of how much cycling is embedded in the local culture were everywhere.
We saw a display in an optician’s window featuring a high end frameset designed to catch the eye of pedestrians. We walked into a bar/café that also appeared to be selling cycling equipment. There was a Molteni jersey on display that looked old and worn enough to be an original from the 70′s. And inside the Roman amphitheater we saw some vintage bikes in a storefront window, although the shop itself appeared empty and under construction.
When we saw a small group of road cyclists gathering for what was likely the start of their regular ride into the surrounding hills (which looked pretty steep from the bus) I was quite jealous. I would much rather have been joining them than heading back to the comfort and luxury of the ship, where the only cycling available was the stationary bike in the gym. Maybe someday; as soon as we got on the bus Stoker and I started considering whether we could come back to Lucca for an extended stay sometime in the future. It probably won’t happen but it was fun to think about the possibility. If we can get our tandem there and can find some Tuscan Hills that are not too long or steep, who knows?