Luna had to go to the vet. Rami had to go to work. It’s Saturday and we’re nearing the end of July in a city in the middle of Italy. Almost everyone that isn’t in line for the Duomo is at the beach, or sitting in traffic to get to the beach. The streets are deserted. It’s 96F 35C outside. I pull up the bus schedule. The vet is on the other side of town and then some. I put Luna in her basket and we coast the empty streets around Piazza Liberta. I say I’ll just bike to the bus stop, just until I get too tired to push us both up and over the bridge on the Arno, but as I pass the bus stop, and the next, the time is flying and there’s a breeze and so I keep pedaling. The bike path is mostly shaded on the viale. The leaves of the trees filter the hot sun, making patterns on the ground below the tires. A tour group from China don’t hear my bell. “PerMESSO!” I shout to their backs. Wicked witch.
Up and over the bridge. The Arno glimmers. A crew team passes underneath, their oars slapping the water. Downriver, the city springs up in the afternoon glare. The Ponte Vecchio is a silhouette under the afternoon sun. The tower of Palazzo Vecchio juts up into the skyline. I keep pedaling out into the further neighborhoods. The quiet remains. Two teens pedal by me on mountain bikes, the tires caked in dirt. A woman throws her white sheet out the window from the third story and it billows out into the air above me.
Later I’m pedaling back down into the center. I stop at the outdoor food trucks, one of the only places lively with those still here in the city. The glasses clink behind the wooden bar. The grills sizzle with hamburgers and sausages. I parked along the Arno and get a strawberry granita and share it with Luna as we walk down the river in the park. Kids scream laughing as they pass on their bikes. A bit further, I find an area of posters with information about the history of the Arno. On the way back to the bike I walk the edge of the water away from the park and the crowds. The water is murky. I want to time travel back to see it crystal clear. I want to be able to dive into it. So badly.
They say it’s getting better. They say it’s getting cleaner, but I’m not sure it’ll ever be like it was, when Florentines could have fresh fish on their plates and their clothes washed on the banks just down the street.
I pedaled to our friend’s house, then to the train station pharmacy (it is difficult to write that with a “p” now, seeing that it’s farmacia in Italian and now doesn’t that just make so much more sense?) because it’s basically the only one open on a Saturday after eight. I get caught up in a wave of suitcases and the disoriented humans attached to them. I park my bike again, Take out the 20 lb pig in the basket, and head in.
I had what I needed from the vet written on a business card. The pharmacist (farmacista) leaned onto the counter and broke it down for me. He could give me what was written on the card, or he could give me that same medicine in liquid form with sterile cotton and it’d do the same thing for a quarter of the price. It’s also easier, he added. Sold. I love medicine in Italy.
By the time I got home after another errand or two, Luna had a solid five minutes where she let the crazy out from being cooped up in a basket and then flopped herself on the couch. I mapped it, it was a total of ten miles, and much more enjoyable than a bus ride.