Italian Bike Life – Dress As You Please

I’ve been meaning to tackle this subject for quite a while, and even today’s post is only a beginning to a fuller visual essay on bike life in Italy.

Bicycles own a big place in Italian culture.

Of course, the Giro d’Italia contributes heavily and people are solidly fanatical about following it. But this week I’d like to focus on the everyday-getting-from-here-to-there bike culture. It’s huge.

This past weekend, we made a day trip to Ferrara, about two hours by train and just north of Bologna. Ferrara is in Emilia-Romagna, which is the region known for producing arguably the best pasta in all of Italy (stay tuned for next week’s post about one of these best meals I’ve ever had). Unfortunately, Ferrara is often bypassed by people making a beeline for nearby Bologna. I’d been urged to visit Ferrara, particularly to see the stunning Cathedral of St. George. Just when I thought I’d seen all the most breathtaking churches of Italy…

Anyway, getting back on track, we entered the city center amidst a swarm of people on their bikes. This wasn’t a new phenomenon for me, since Treviso, our city, is also home to a robust population of bikes. But on this day, I had my camera in hand and I decided to embark on a quick photo essay of these colorful people and outfits passing us left and right.

Choosing to transit by bike doesn’t put a crimp in fashion choices.

If I had one overarching takeaway from our day in Ferrara, it’s this. And I love it. You’d think people would avoid donning their best outfits, afraid of sweating, getting dirty, or breaking a heel by wearing anything but sensible shoes. Check out the platform heels on the happy woman above, and the four-inch heels on the blonde woman below. Those are out-on-the-town shoes, my friends.

Bike Life, Jed Smith Photography

Hoofing It in Heels © 2018 Jed Smith

Perfectly pressed and put together.

I love how Italians don’t eschew fashion in favor of practicality. Check out this handsomely-attired gentleman below in his freshly-pressed dress shirt and suspenders. Age is no excuse either to get lazy with fashion choices.

Bike Life, Jed Smith Photography

Nattily Attired © 2018 Jed Smith

Animal partners get in on the action.

Consider this lady with her colorful Bohemian look and her sweet pooch happily perched in his front row seat. This kind of thing is hardly a rare sight.

Bike Life, Jed Smith Photography

Front Row Seat © 2018 Jed Smith

The following photo also captures a canine out for a jog, while a well-suited man passes by.

Bike Life, Jed Smith Photography

Dress Up or Down © 2018 Jed Smith

I hope you’ll see, from these five photos, why this theme fascinates me and why I think it has potential to grow into something more substantial. I will plan a strategy and send myself off on a concentrated Italy bike life photojournalism assignment. Warm weather is ripe with opportunity, but also winter and rainy weather. Bikes don’t disappear here in Italy in adverse conditions unless it is a torrential downpour or a full-on blizzard. I’ve marveled at the numerous women on bikes here in Treviso, wearing full-length fur coats in the colder months. And during a steady rain, I’ve seen people returning from the town market, riding their bikes while balancing an umbrella and a basket of recently purchased goods.

This list goes on and on…and so will my photo efforts! Stay tuned!

By |2019-01-19T20:40:05+01:00May 16th, 2018|Italian Culture|17 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Pedro Collusso May 28, 2018 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    Great post, beautiful place! We will be in Treviso/Veneto region in two weeks and I think you are convincing me to visit Ferrara!
    Buona serata!

  2. Amy May 16, 2018 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    We rented bikes in Ferrara and I promptly had a face to face meeting with the cobble stone road we were on. It was all very dramatic. What made me laugh is my husband was oblivious, he was ahead of me, while some kind Italians checked on my well being. We rode the rest of the day and enjoyed ourselves, so all was well. And now I’ll forever have that memory of Ferrara and bikes. Thus, your post gave me a big smile.

    • Jed May 16, 2018 at 10:59 pm - Reply

      Always happy to know one of my posts resulted in a smile. There ARE some serious cobblestone streets in Ferrara (best for fat tires). I was remarking, when we were walking around, how I really enjoyed getting a foot massage walking on those “lumpy” streets. Acupressure foot massage?

  3. elizabeth wholey May 16, 2018 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    The Mediterranean diet, walking and riding bikes keep Italians healthy, and of course, you must always look good! An Italian friend once told me “we would eat onions in order to dress well!”

    • Jed May 16, 2018 at 5:57 pm - Reply

      A good reminder, Elizabeth. I love the quote from your friend. So true!

  4. Taffy May 16, 2018 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    Hi Jed. Enjoy your blog! I once had the best Ravioli di Zucca in Ferrara. It was like concentrated pumpkin pie filling inside pasta drizzled with sage butter. What a surprising combination of flavors! At that time it was very regional and seasonal so if that’s still true, you’ll HAVE TO go back in the Fall.

    • Jed May 16, 2018 at 5:49 pm - Reply

      Simone has something similar when we dined in Ferrara and I sampled a bite. Heavenly! Glad you enjoy the blog!

  5. Yasmin May 16, 2018 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    Hi Jed, This is exactly why we bought our house in Pesaro. There are signs everywhere saying it is the capital of bikes. In July of 2012 my husband and I flew into Rome and took the train to Pesaro where we rented a car to visit our son living in Urbino, where he was getting his Master’s degree. I told my husband then if we can live here I will sell our house in the USA. Pesaro is right on the Adriatic coast and bustling with Italians on vacation in the summer months. We bought our house in July of 2015. Although renovations to our 200 year old farmhouse is slow, it is a quality and craftsmanship I hugely admire here. Which leads to me understand that Italians aren’t in a hurry. Riding their bikes is part of that. I even once saw a woman at least 7 months pregnant with a toddler on the front. I see ages 8 to 88 riding bikes. I’ve seen groups of riders in bike training outfits and surprised that everyone is over 70. Our shipper is coming Monday to pack us for our Italy move. I chose him because he knows the correct wording to use for our furniture so that our things don’t get held up too long in Customs once they arrive in Naples in 1 1/2 months. That gives us time to accept that we will no longer have a home in the USA. The one thing that can frustrate us is that no one is in a rush but it is also the one thing we love about Italy.

    • Jed May 16, 2018 at 5:47 pm - Reply

      Hi Yasmin, You’ll be right at home in the bike culture. We bought two pre-owned bikes and we use them frequently to make the ten minute trip to the city wall and within. Parking is never an issue.
      I’ve only had lunch in Pesaro (on my way from Venice to Urbino many years ago). I would like to go back.
      A great adventure awaits you with this new phase in your life. I remember when the shipper came and took away my remaining belongings, other than an air mattress and a suitcase. Good to know you have a good shipper who knows the ropes once your stuff arrives in Naples. Will they alert you as to when the shipment actually lands? Mine came through the UK so, other than waiting for 3 months, I didn’t have issues. I’ve heard, multiple times, about people receiving their shipments at an Italian port who have had their shipments held up for vague reasons, or there is a delay in communicating their arrival, and meanwhile, they charge a daily storage fee. You’ve probably already covered this with your shipper, but I wanted to share this just in case!
      Come enjoy the slower pace here in Italy! Thanks for writing!

      • Yasmin May 16, 2018 at 6:07 pm - Reply

        Ciao Jed I was debating whether to ship our 2 bikes to Italy. My husband kept saying we can buy new ones there but I do like the ones we have so to Italy they will go! I got the name of our shipper through a member of my knitting group here in NJj. She has shipped many times with him so I’m hoping all will go smoothly although I am sure we will find unexpected adventures. Since we are Italian citizens we are considered to be returning home and that may make the process less complicated. We are not shipping the car since you have to be a resident to register it in Italy. Right now we are residents in Madrid (my husband works here) and with all the trouble we went through to accomplish that we didn’t want to change that for now. I’ll keep you posted.

        • Jed May 16, 2018 at 10:57 pm - Reply

          Good for you. When you’ve broken in bikes I think it’s best to stick with them. I shipped my fancy road bike over, but I need to get it serviced and start hitting the road now that the weather is so nice. I have one other custom-built Italian bike that I’ve been using (until I took a spill two years ago…a little gun shy now).
          If you maintain an address in Madrid you should be able to register the car there and drive it in Italy. But, then again, there can be loads of additional restrictions regarding which cars are acceptable. Maybe better to buy in Italy. I’m living for the day to not have a car and to use my bike and the excellent local transit system!
          We’ll see!

  6. Kathryn Smith May 16, 2018 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    I remember marveling at the ladies riding bikes in full-length minks many years ago when I was in Pordenone. Glad to know this still goes on!

    • Jed May 16, 2018 at 3:26 pm - Reply

      Hi Kathryn. The full-length minks are the grandest sight of all. I’ve seen some that are almost brushing the pavement!

  7. Nancy May 16, 2018 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Jed! I love this series! We visited Ferrara a few years back and loved it. Just the right size and not crazy congested because of all the bikes. Two observations, 1) you had a picture of a dog in an basket, I saw a man taking his parakeet on a ride on his handlebars! 2) I never saw as many nervous dogs on leashes there. Do you think it was a fear of the bikes? I do!

    • Jed May 16, 2018 at 2:03 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Nancy! More coming. A parakeet? I’ll keep my eyes peeled for other exotic birds and animals. I think you’re right on about the nervous dogs. When they’re in the city they’re double-tasking: jogging along and looking this way and that way for danger. In the parks, it’s a different story! Hope all is well.

  8. Chip Meeks May 16, 2018 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    Thanks Jed. Great point. I was impressed when I first arrived in Germany in ’86 and saw 70-80s y/o ladies riding thier bikes from early morning bakery shops to midnight church visits! And ALWAYS donned out properly! Some of these ladies never had a driver’s license because there was never a need. Have a great rest of your week!

    • Jed May 16, 2018 at 2:06 pm - Reply

      Hi Chip, I love how age doesn’t seem to be so much of a barrier here in Europe. And as you point out they older gals have been doing this all their lives, sans cars. Parking isn’t an issue, and usually, traffic is a breeze. I’m already eying the day when I can ditch my car and utilize the robust public transport here in Treviso. Hope all is well!

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