I’ve never been a bike lover. I used to go on long mountain bike rides with my parents when I was really small, which I truly enjoyed, but they never actually gained a special place in my heart.
As of now, I wish I had one of those gopro cameras to show you the video of the great experience I’m about to tell you, with this sort of song playing in the background, a nice breeze blowing in the sun and my big smile to underline it all.
What happened in the middle? Let’s go a few steps backwards.
Two friends of mine, Andrea and Tiziano, opened Centocicli in January, a new bike shop in Centocelle, Rome. Their passion and their competence managed to involve all of us non-bikers in this world, driven by their dedication and true love.
So the step was a short one to being involved in a bike ride: “could it actually be something I can end up liking?”, I silently started wondering. Nevertheless, I was skeptical.
Here was the plan: a 48km loop riding through some of the most beautiful parks in Rome, as well as a few of the most significant monuments. Something that would make a tourist go insane! We are not talking about the classic rent-a-bike-and-have-a-ride sort of experience. It’s a legitimate bike ride around Rome, with all its ups and downs and all its enchanting places.
That’s what they call the GRAB, or at least what they will call it when it will be finished. GRAB stands for Grande Raccordo Anulare delle Bici and it’s basically a long, car-free loop for bikes to ride around Rome and its parks. It will be accessible to everyone and it will be a great alternative to explore the city and its beauties. The tour itself is no news to Roman bike riders, who already know and ride it from years. However, the actual complete bike lane doesn’t exist yet and some stretches are on actual road. Our itinerary wasn’t the exact GRAB, but a very close one anyways.
I wasn’t sure it was something I would have actually enjoyed. More than three years were dividing me form my last, not-so-noteworthy bike ride, not to mention I actually prefer the great, empty outdoors to chaotic cities and big crowds.
But as I said, aware passion can make great things happen and it can tow even the most doubtful souls.
So there we were: a quick check to our faithful steeds and ready-steady-go! We left Centocili (our starting and arrival point) at 11 AM: perfect clear sky, sun high and bright, plenty of fresh air. On spot!
After less than 10 kilometres I had already changed my mind and I was thoroughly loving the ride.
Rome is messy and old, but that’s exactly why she’s also so beautiful. Her (yes, Rome is a she) parks have some kind of wild feature that turning the GRAB into an outdoor adventure in the city, making a few exceptions for…well, you know, just the Colosseum, the Imperial Fora, or Piazza Venezia: no biggie!
Roman parks are gorgeous, even if not perfectly pruned and trimmed. In this city we do have one of the largest green surfaces in Europe (even though Rome is far from being the greenest city in terms of sustainability and pollution). Riding through Rome by bike is just the perfect way to experience them all in one go and, in general, explore the city in a way that it wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Indeed, this sort of bike itinerary allows riders to obtain the perfect tour of the Eternal City in just a few hours, including those places you wouldn’t normally visit when sightseeing, like for example the outskirts, which can be extremely fascinating and full of interesting and independent realities.
I couldn’t stop to take pictures of all the spots we visited: it’s actually nice to just keep riding and let that feeling of freedom and childish fun soak you to the bones. However, here is a list of the places you can see if you follow this itinerary:
- Parco degli Acquedotti
- Parco di Tor Fiscale
- Parco della Caffarella
- Appia Antica
- Terme di Caracalla
- Circo Massimo
- Fori Imperiali
- Piazza Venezia
- Via del Corso (here you can take a quick detour for the Pantheon if you like)
- Villa Borghese
- Villa Ada
- Riserva Naturale della Valle dell’Aniene – here we stopped at La Torre to get some refreshment with a beer and gather some energies for our last sprint
The unexpected epilogue
What I found is that biking ultimately is an act of love, joy and respect.
For the world, for ourselves and for those around us. The chance to explore without invading is greatly precious, whether it’s a mountain, or a city. It probably really is one of the most human experiences I’ve ever done in my life.
It was just the perfect way to re-discover a city I’m so used to and feel like a tourist again. It was also the best way to re-discover this beautiful mean of transportation: I just can’t wait for my next ride and maybe who knows, even a nice travel by bike this summer.
A special thanks goes to passion, and Centocicli of course, which are some sort of synonyms anyways: as always, the most worthy things in life are not things and don’t happen because of conformity, competitiveness, or division, but because of the will to share, involve, create and convey.
The ability of something new and different to make you focus on the present, on what you are experiencing in the moment and the preciousness of that fragment of time is just incredible. Diversity is at the very core of creation and it’s the only way to allow life to happen, develop and explode. Everything is diverse: there’s no two same things, two same experiences, two same moments.
Cultivate diversity, and you will cultivate life.