14 May 2010

Thoughts on on Italian Life

Probably a little premature posting this, because to date we have been living in a bubble here. Buffet meals three times a day, no need to leave the hotel unless you are sitting on a bike seat... pretty hard to take.

But a few things that have caught my eye:

High density living (and that is what it is here) really lends itself to either a motor scooter or a bike. The public transport network seems to be pretty darn good (regular buses and trains), they seem to be regular, reliable and modern. I can see it would be very possible to live without a car altogether. And with fuel at about €1.30 (about AU$2.00) a litre, living without a car would probably be a pretty sensible financial decision.

Bike helmets seem to be optional. Certainly for the people scooting around town on their bikes, a helmet would be an added burden to carry around with you, and I wonder if compulsary helmets would deter people from riding, or at least deter people from obeying the law. The bulk of commuting cycling seems to be around town at low speed, with very few vehicle interactions.

Every so often a study is trotted out that claims that there is a negative benefit to public health created by mandating cycling helmets. That is, by forcing people to wear helmets, people are being deterred from riding their bike, foregoing the health benefits of regular exercise. The suggestion is that is helmets were not compulsary, more people would ride, and be healthier, which would outweigh the effect of more severe injuries incurred through people not wearing helmets.

I always thought this was rubbish, but seeing just how many people ride here, I can see how there may be some truth to it. Do not get me wrong, I simply cannot see a no helmet policy working in Australia - there are simply too many bike - vehicle interactions, crossing busy roads etc. But for village or small town life here - well it seems to work.

By the same token, I am shocked by the number of road cyclists who ride without helmets. That just scares the bejesus out of me, especially given the business and general craziness of the Italian roads. Stupid decision no doubt, and I think that it is certainly one discipline where helmets should be mandated.

Cannot get over the number of people here that smoke. Seeing less at the moment as we are circulating with healthy bike riding type people - but in Rome, jeebers, I think every second person was smoking. Being that the Italians seem to be incredibly fashion concious (image is everything), the collolary must be that smoking is still seen to be cool.

Coffee - so freaking cheap, and so freaking good! I have not had a bad coffee since we have been here, and we have drunk a fair bit. Quick and cheap. €1 for a capucchino is about the mark. And it never ceases to amaze me that they can have 30 people milling around a coffee bar, and every has a coffee in their hand pronto, where if you had that in Australia, I would probably still be waiting for my coffee, which would be over extracted, bitter, and the milk burned. The Italians have really hit the nail on the head in this department.

OK, enough drivel. Photos and Garmin stuff from today's ride... later.


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