Now I cannot presume to know what you are thinking at this moment. The weekend might peer into your tired noggin like a curious Italian man on a bike when Lisa and I cruise by. If, instead, a question surfaces about why I haven’t written more frequently it’s because–aspetta, wait. A picture says a thousand words, does it not? So a blog with pictures must say even more. Therefore–especially if you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking–I’ll step back and let the blog do its work. And then you’ll understand why I am saddled with the very best of predicaments: doing way too f*cking much to blog.
1. A Bologna Day
The first two weeks or so in July found me channeling a hermit crab–in a very hot shell, with an espresso machine nearby. Perfect conditions for a warm weather loving, aspiring author with gallons of time, an article to finish and a book to perfect. Many of you know it’s been a multi-year endeavor, this comic fantasy mystery of mine. Having snatched the opportunity of free time in Italia, I decided to use July wisely and wrap up the novel like a happy mummy, primed for the afterlife. I’ve even spotted a publisher through the keyhole in the pyramid and I’ll ship the whole endeavor off on a pyre of hope come fall.So, I dove headlong into the deep pool of editing, formatting, publishing research, cover letter writing and so forth. And then I needed a mini-vacation–both from the book itself and even from the lovely castle. I bought a 4.75 euro ticket and headed to Bologna to see about becoming happily lost in the lively, student-lined streets and well-preserved medieval center. I also visited the covered walkway and steps (portico) to hilltop Santuario di Madonna di San Luca. I read there are 666 steps, but hell, what kind of devil wants to count them? From the official start of the portico walk in Piazza Saragozza, it’s about 3.7 km (2.3 miles) one way. But of course–to pre-compensate for the giant gelato devoured afterwards–I walked from the train station to the church and later, back (about 20 km total or 12 miles), not including getting lost…At the Santuario, my stomach reminded me lunch was overdue like a library book. The day–of course–was toasty, and a shady pause wouldn’t hurt. I spied an excellent pit stop with an enviable view and sat down to rest, re-hydrate and stuff my face before heading down the way I came.
In the evening, I met up with Matteo (a Tinder find, hehe) and his friend Thomas we made short work of three bottles of sparkling, crisp local pignoletto wine. We followed it up with piadine and a bottle of dry, sparkling red Lambrusco. And then I personally polished the night off by getting buzzed enough to almost-not-quite miss the last train back to Faenza at midnight. I’m a 33-year-old 20-year-old; what else can I say? 🙂
2. Notte Rosa (Pink Night), Rimini, Italia
On the train to Bologna, I met a friendly dude named James, from Nigeria. He got excited to hear me speaking English on the phone (probably an excuse to say hi) and asked for my number. Since I’m free as the breeze I so desperately wished would stir in that sweaty, stuffy train, why not? Less than a week later, he sent a message to say he was heading to Notte Rosa on the coast and would I want to come? I–the 20-year-old-33-year-old dancing machine–was basically already on scene.I boarded the 2300 train from Faenza on a Friday night and arrived in Rimini’s warm air before midnight. With a sea of other youths (ewe-ths) sporting pink apparel, I met up with James and we headed towards the beach. Fireworks exploded merrily overhead; street vendors hawking pink wigs, pink leis, pink hats and pink scarves waved their wares from all directions. Closer to the crowded venue, dance music resonated from every corner, like a thumping, aural compass rose (compass rosa?).
Following the (pink) river of humans, we soon found the main stage, its metal spine parked over the sand like a neon snail, next to a phosphorescent gyrating ferris wheel. And then the music started up: it was a beat that rattled the bones and left no choice but to move to it.
For the next four hours (until the first train in the morning back to Faenza, around 4 a.m.) we and hundreds of our closest friends grooved to the rambunctious beats of DJs from venues in Miami, Italia and the (electronically) infamous Belgian Tomorrowland. I didn’t have any fun at all, as you can tell:
After the music stopped we shuffled out with everyone, queued up in front of the crescione stands and stuffed our faces with everyone and ran to the train (which was late) with everyone. As the sun oozed over the horizon like a freshly cracked egg, we made our way back on the train with everyone, too.3. Beach Weekend, Part One (Part two, this weekend with Lisa)
What to do with a bike, a free weekend and a tent? Ride to Boca Barranca in Marina Romea of course!
First I hit the reset button from Pink Night and slept in until noon-thirty. Then I chucked swimsuit, sunscreen, sleeping pad, pillow, sheet, towel, flip-flops, bug spray, camera and a couple of dresses in panniers and took off in the sweltering heat. Except for a section of dirt, the asphalt road exacerbated everything; enough heat rose off it to cook an egg on my knee as I cycled along.In Bagnacavallo, I made a pit stop at Igor and Sara’s to borrow their tent. Sara revived me with ice-cold water and mint syrup, some sort of nectar of the Gods. “Look even our ice works for ExperiencePlus!” said Sara (and we had a work-related laugh because the bicycle company we work for, ExperiencePlus!, employs arrows in its logo and each and every tour). These just pointed me towards the hammock, but still…
Refreshed, I bungeed the tent on, hopped a train in Bagnacavallo and got off in Ravenna. It was almost 1800 as I moved from the busy stazione (station) to the bike path. A steady stream of beach-goers beelined for the city, trailing dripping swimsuits, wreaking of sunscreen and casting curious glances at me, going the opposite direction with tent and panniers.
Having selected a leisurely pace and after taking the short ferry across the main canal, I arrived at Romeo Family Camping around 1930. First things first: a dunk of my slimy self in the cool waters of the Adriatico.After the friendly hosts led me to my sandy pitch, I set up my tiny island among the skyscrapers of permanent bungalows and rented “tents” with fake windows, fridges, ceiling fans and blaring televisions. Curiosity followed me like a string of starved mosquitos. A single girl, arriving by bike with a small, simple tent: I suppose I was something to wonder about.
“Where does she sit?” I heard one older lady say to another as she shuffled by in her flowered mu-mu, flashing me a genuine smile with bright red lips, the lipstick just slightly off. Her friend shrugged.
I rode across the little canal to Lisa and my beloved Boca Barranca, where I dined on everyone’s favorite seafood platter and a Campari Spritz. Simultaneously, I enjoyed the smart ramblings of Tom Robbins and checked on our favorite employee, the artist formerly known as Hot Bartender. Now we refer to him as maybe Tito, because the one time he gave me his name the music (per usual) was loud enough I wondered if maybe my eardrums were real drums, played by an adderol-powered David Grohl.Around 2200, I retired to my tent for a nap. Around 1130, as the rest of Romea Family Camping was brushing teeth, the kids snoring in bed, I was applying make-up in the Spartan, mosquito-infested bathroom (receiving curious glances from humans and hungry ones from mosquitos). Again, I rode my bike over to Boca Barranca and danced with the lights and fog machines until 3 a.m… 20s in my 30s, what can I say!Sometime in the “night” (or very early morning) I had a vivid dream of floating in a warm lake inside a ziplock bag (with breathing holes). Not exactly… I awoke in a tepid sea of my own sweat inside the gray-green inferno of a tent. I got up–in my underwear–tore off the fly and fell asleep on top of my sheets.
At around 0800, I awoke to very young children circling my tent like training-wheel reinforced vultures. I cracked my eye-mask, shoved my earplugs back in, rolled over and returned to the quieter land of dreams. When I came to again around 11, the camp was crawling with people, my tent was crawling with ants and I had been sleeping splayed out in my underwear in broad daylight for more than long enough for anything crawling to see me…So, I got my curious self up, pulled a dress on and went to the beach. After another Boca hamburger for dinner, I spent the evening journaling and reading on the beach, watching the sun high five the moon and applying bug spray liberally. I hadn’t planned to stay two nights, but I was lazy and living in the moment. After checking with the staff, I spent another eight hours splayed out in my underwear, dreaming about soaking in a cup of hot chocolate. In the morning, I packed up and rode back to Ravenna, boarded the (late) train and was back in Faenza by American dinner time.
4. Santarcangelo Film Festival (Santarcangelo/Torre Pedrera, Italia)
Again, the trusty steed and I hopped aboard a train in Faenza and departed in sunny Santarcangelo–about an hour on the tracks and very close to Rimini, where I danced my face off at Notte Rosa. I’d booked an airbnb room in Torre Pedrera, a shell’s throw from the beach. I spent the 10 km or so from Santarcangelo to b&b on back roads, rolling past churned fields and fruit-laden orchards, through tiny towns where farmers shaded their eyes to see who passed through. The room was in a clean, outdated hotel run by friendly Chiara and Barbara. My hosts set me up with stable for the steed and a voucher for an inclusive ombrello e lettino (umbrella and sun chair). My 20s-in-my-30s instincts told me I would be only too happy to make friends with un ombrello e un lettino (late) the next morning…
I showered and changed, just as a gesture to my fellow humans I suppose, because by the time I rode back to Santarcangelo I was dripping like a melting gelato. Nonetheless, I couldn’t be happier; there were people everywhere, seeping out of cafes like the sounds of music oozing around the corners. As the sun sunk down with a sigh, here and there flashed an open air exhibit or a black and white French movie playing on the giant screen in the main square. I followed the cobbled beehive streets up to the castle atop Santarcangelo’s medieval skull to find some (handsome) men setting up a stage for later.
Before finding a piadina and vino rosso and calling it dinner, I asked around and finally found the Imbosco–a word which, to keep on the PG side, I will not translate. In reality, it was a large red and white tent in a generous field in Parco dei Cappuccini.
After watching people over the top of my speck e formaggio piadina in the lower main square, I tried to visit a merman in the town pool, but he had retired for the day. Instead, I visited some of the underground caves…… and then I wandered over to the Aussie-run Club EcoSex, where visitors were invited to “flirt with nature.” Having been in nature as a Forest Service employee and general outdoor enthusiast but having so far missed my chance to flirt with it, I had to see what my 5 euros would get me.
I walked in to find a sexy, eclectic mix of art and theater. In the first room a raised bed of orchids observed a large movie screen with a snake that wound around a woman’s torso and shots of men and women peeling some sort of glue off their bodies while laying in the grass. A naked woman wearing only a collar wandered around in the pink light. It was like a free, humid acid trip.
The next room was filled with fog, flashing lights and jungle beats. Three beds hung with lights and netting and surrounded by plants invited people to lay down and observe. I accepted, laid down and lost complete track of time, people watching and turning my mind off completely.
And I wasn’t supposed to take a video (bad Sylva) but by the time I was chastised I already had. Waste not, want not…
When I emerged, the sky was squid inky black. I wandered back into the center for a coffee and meandered back up to the top of the old city. There, I found an older woman with cropped blond hair, a black leotard, tights and high heels singing eclectic music with a strong soprano voice. After her last song melted into the night, I followed everyone back down to the flats. A techno beat pointed to a circular crowd, a parked car blaring the beats and a group of very committed youths. As they performed, everyone in the crowd looked at each other, wondered what was going on and giggled just a little…
At the Imbosco, a DJ played for an audience of blue lights and tropical potted plants and groups queued up at the bar or several food trucks scattered about like edible confetti. Lights sparkled overhead and groups of friends laughed in the shadows or at low tables. I waited awhile but the dance floor remained uninspiring. Although people streamed towards the Imbosco like Prosecco into a good Spritz, I still had a bike between me and my bed. By the time I wove back through the deserted streets, with the Big Dipper and the busty moon as my guides, it was after 0200. And–as promised to my less hung over self the day before–I woke up late and spent the day reading and sunning at the beach before an afternoon train back to the castle.
5. The ABCs: Amici, Bici, Concerti
Although it seems all the adventures and editing and dancing would’ve eaten up all my free time like a hungry post-bike ride Sylva, I still had time for… well, just that. I managed to ride three to five times a week, visiting old haunting grounds and finding new ones to be ghastly around as well. I even got to accidentally haunt a dirt road on a road bike…I also managed to get bit twice in one week by two idiotic insects- one wasp and one undetermined variety, both of which I hope will soon be extinct. They surely might be, based on their ability to fly straight into a jersey and not find a way back out…
I also attended an amazing concert with my buddies Igor and Sara. We enjoyed the unique music and endless antics of Devendra Banhart in 18th century, beautifully restored Villa Torloni. I took home the fond memories and a dozen ant bites in an unfortunate locale (enough said). As a friend recently told me, my bug bite frequency might be enough to try for a world record. As an unemployed outdoor enthusiast: one, I probably am already enrolled in the competition and two, I wonder if I might be able get paid for that? 🙂
I also took home some amazing videos of the concert and Devendra’s incredible ability to interact with the crowd. I didn’t quite capture when he ordered pizza for his hungry keyboardist and it was delivered on stage. But I did get the tail end of a running joke that began at the concert’s start when the bassist’s microphone was accidentally turned off:
A few days later, I stumbled over a free concert in Faenza’s centro, in starry-roofed Teatro Massini. Rock chords drew me in to listen to the last five or six songs of Alejandro Escovedo. Escovedo’s been around for some time, played with The Boss (Bruce Springsteen) among others and played some awesome, politically charged songs written to challenge Trump’s latest anti-immigration measures. Why? His father was Mexican.
The summer fun doesn’t stop there–but I am going to, for now. It’s evening in Italy and a Spritz is calling!
On the next Sylva Lining, Sylva goes to Sofia, Bulgaria for the weekend and now, Lisa’s back… you know what that means… rivers, bikes, beaches and of course, Boca Barranca! And later still, girls, tents, more bikes and alps. Stay tuned!