I have a thing for motorcycles. Not the big bikes, but Vespas . . . the quintessential Italian scooter perfect for cobblestone streets and winding through the hills of the Italian countryside.
When I was a little girl he had a beautiful burgundy Vespa, and with my sister standing in front and me sitting behind, he would take us on afternoon rides through the farmlands of San Martino. Sometimes I would get a special trip when we snuck out without my sister (sorry Ua!) and I would then have my zio (and the vespa) all to myself.
Occasionally we would venture into downtown Verona, going through the city’s big, stone archways, weaving in and out of traffic, and then climbing Salita XX Settembre to visit his parents.
And every excursion would involve a stop at a bar for a popsicle, un ghiacciolo.
At different times of my life I have had the opportunity to revisit those childhood Vespa rides so that now I have several motorcycle stories. My favorite one involves an Italian college student and a sunny day in Spain . . .
During my summer study abroad, our final two days were spent in Barcelona. The problem was that by then we were all BROKE. We had no money for transportation, entrance fees, or even food. One meal was a shared jar of peanut butter, all of us huddled around it with spoons . . . we were that broke.
That night, however, we met a group of Italian college students who were spending the summer driving through Spain. They very graciously volunteered to drive us around the next day. Since none of them spoke English, and I was the only one in my group who spoke Italian, I was the official translator.
The next day we met the Italians in the lobby and we divided into groups. The organizer of their group asked me to ride with him, and I just about fainted when we walked outside and I saw his motorcycle. Gulp.
All my friends were squished into cars, but I got to ride on a motorcycle holding on tightly (well, he did take sharp turns) to a very cute Italian guy.
But that smile on that sunny afternoon in Barcelona was an echo of my smile on those first Vespa rides with my uncle.
Grazie Silvio. Buon Compleanno.