2015 Biking Adventure - Italy

Bringing more than a small suitcase anywhere is a hassle.  Bringing a tandem, camping equipment and a harp is crazy, I know.  I’m still keeping track and literally weighing the pros and cons of dragging a harp behind our bike.

On the plus side, traveling with a harp can be a great way to start a conversation with complete strangers. But, not everyone always knows that it is a harp inside the case, so most people just wonder why we have so much baggage. We stuff all kinds of extra clothes and gear into the harp case. There is even room for Fred’s Cordova mini-guitar. We are biking most days, but do rent cars and take trains to leap ahead when needed.

The first time I was glad we had the harp was when we were on a train en route to Torino, Italy. A gypsy man strode into the train with his accordion, flashy clothes, golden tooth and small dog in tow. It was as if he just walked off a movie set. I took the harp out of its case and played him a tune. Minutes later we were jamming together on the train! What fun! A few tunes in and my husband, Fred and I were befriended by Pilano the gypsy, who offered us candy and beverages for the rest of the ride.

 I don’t speak Italian, nor Romani and Pilano didn’t speak English, but between hand signals and a few words we ‘talked’. The real communication was the shared language of music. It transformed a ride on the train into a lasting memory. Pilano was on his way to perform in a jazz festival that evening. But, he didn’t spring for a ticket all the way to Torino. The other gypsies on the train scampered off one stop before the ticket lady made her rounds. Pilano was caught without a ticket so I gave him 1.30 Euro to make it to the next stop. We saw him disembark and wished him luck. As we were approaching Torino he proudly came by our seat to show that he had snuck back on and would get to his gig on time!

In Italy, I have played in a couple of restaurants in exchange for delicious dinners, so, in a sense the harp is earning its passage. But, just barely. We pushed the heavy tandem up many a hill in Tuscany and would arrive too exhausted in the evening to do anything but set up our tent, eat dinner, have some fine Italian wine and watch the sunset.

Regardless, I fell in love with Italy. We arrived when Italy was in full bloom. Trees and bushes along the road were laden with fragrant blossoms. It was as if Venus herself had sprayed the air with a sensual perfume. I loved everything Italian. The food, the wine, the coffee, the architecture and the people. The Italians we met were usually outgoing, proud of their culture and generous. I also loved being part of the biking community. Almost every cyclist we passed would wave and smile. Instant commeraderie! Viva Italia!