topics: cappelacci di zucca (food), FIAB, Cities for Cyclists, history, Este family, bike advocacy, bikes and boats; jump to dispatch

BikeAbout Log


Rider Notes: May 5, 1998

Food of the Day: cappelacci di zucca

The local specialty "cappelacci di zucca" are little dough pastries (more like a pouch) filled with pumpkin. They are called "cappelacci" because they look a little bit like hats, or "cappeli."

Person of the Day: Gianni Stefanati

Gianni Stefanati currently works in the Bike Office of the City of Ferrara. (Really. There is actually a "Bike Office" officially integrated into the bureaucracy of the city... so much so that there are even official bike parking places near his office. click to view a photograph) Gianni is the point man in Ferrara for quite a few cycle-related projects and he is one of the primary forces behind Ferrara having become Italy's only member in the European Cyclists' Federation's "Cities for Cyclists" initiative (see the Tech Fact of the Day).

We "met" Gianni first through email as a result of his work with FIAB, the Federazione Italiana Amici della Bicicletta, which "groups together all of the non competitive Italian clubs for cycle enthusiasts." (We have already encountered FIAB in Trieste, Friuli, and the Veneto region.) And, as we got closer to Ferrara, even though it was not officially part of our itinerary, it was more than apparent that we should take the time to make personal contact with him and learn more about him, his work in Ferrara, and FIAB in general.

Certainly, Gianni's job in Ferrara is made easier by the abundance of bikes so commonly in use the city. According to a brochure about Ferrara and cycling in the region, legend has it that "children learn to cycle before they learn to walk." And, in fact, the statistics seem to support this assertion. With 136,215 inhabitants, Ferrara also has at least 100,000 bicycles in use (and only 80,000 cars), and, according to a recent census, 30.7% of the trips the people of Ferrara must make for work or study purposes are by bike! So, of course, the city has taken a great interest in making cycling easier and safer in Ferrara. For that, they needed an expert. Which is where Gianni comes in.

Gianni has been instrumental in opening the city's large restricted traffic zones and pedestrian areas to bikes, identifying and/or building extensive bike paths and routes in areas both alongside and away from traffic, and instituting citywide programs designed to reduce traffic volume and get people into the saddle (like the city's Bicicard program whereby on weekends and holidays, non-residents can purchase one-, two-, or three-day cards that include the bike rental, free entrance to city museums, and a 10%-20% discounts at certain participating hotels, restaurants and shops).

After all, as stated in one of the city's bike brochures, cycling is "the best way of solving city traffic problems and the sedentary habits of its citizens, and with hardly any environmental impact."

For his work in Ferrara, with FIAB, and in the context of Cities for Cyclists, we salute Gianni Stefanati and are proud to have met him. click to view a photograph In addition to that, we thank him fondly for having gone out of his way to help us connect with two host families in Ferrara willing, at short notice, to take four dirty, tired and hungry cyclists into their homes for a night. (Here is a picture of Gianni with Giuseppe, a friend of his and one of our hosts in Ferrara. click to view a photograph) Without Gianni, BikeAbout would have had a lot more work to do and the people of Ferrara would have much tougher lives. (Ethan, in particular, thinks that Mayor Giuliani of New York City should look at what has been accomplished in Ferrara and why the work was undertaken. Ferrara is setting an example that the world - and Mr. Giuliani - should follow!)

For more information about the many programs in Ferrara, please contact:

Bike Office, Commune di Ferrara
Via Oroboni, 42
I-44100 Ferrara
Tel: +39-532-56767
Fax: +39-532-55035

Place of the Day: Ferrara visit the World Heritage Site pagevisit the World Heritage City page

Ferrara was not even originally on our itinerary since it is so far from the coast. However, as we progressed down the Italian coast, working with our new friends at FIAB (see the Person of the Day for more about FIAB), we realized that Ferrara - the Italian City for Cyclists - could not be missed. Plus, it is a convenient distance between Venezia and Ravenna. And it is a city of great historical significance that has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site visit the World Heritage Site page.

Ferrara first began to gain in importance in 1260 A.D. when the Este family grew to prominence in Italy. The Este dynasty of Italian princes began when its founder, Alberto Azzo II (996-1097), was given the town of Este near Padua by Holy Roman Emperor Henry III. However, the Estes are most well known as the lords of Ferrara.

Ferrara under the Estes became a center of art and scholarship. Famous names such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Petrarch and many others spent quite a bit of time under the patronage of the Estes.

The House of Este continued to rule in Ferrara until its collapse in 1598 (lack of a male heir) when it was claimed by the Pope of the time, Clement VIII. The city's decline lasted for 300 years until Napoleon swept through the area and established the regional political center there. In the 20th century, a great deal of work has been done to rehabilitate the famous center that includes the imposing Renaissance Castello Estense and Palazzo Municipale.

Tech Fact of the Day: the European Cyclists' Federation's "Cities for Cyclists" initiative

The European Cyclists' Federation regroups many of the bicycle advocacy groups and clubs, including FIAB (see the Person of the Day) throughout Europe. One of its many programs is called "Cities for Cyclists."

Cities for Cyclists is "a network of European cities with the aim to promote the bicycle as a means of urban transport." Through annual meetings, a newsletter, and publicity, the Cities for Cyclists advocate a "shift from car use to walking, cycling and public transport" as a solution to current urban transport problems.

As of last count, there were 30 member cities: six in the UK, four in Germany, four in Denmark, three in Belgium, two in the Netherlands, two in Switzerland, two in Norway, one in Spain, one in Hungary, one in Austria, one in Slovenia, one in Sweden, one in Finland, and one in Italy (Ferrara).

For more information, please contact:

ECG Cities for Cyclists
c/o ADFC
Postfach 107747
D-28077 Bremen
Tel: +49-421-34.629.21
Fax: +49-421-34.629.50

Group Dispatch, May 5
photograph of Ethan

Today was an unusual day. It kind of went like this: walk - bike(1) - boat(1) - bike(2) - boat(2) - bike(3) - boat(3) - bike(4) - train - eat - sleep. Of course, we were leaving Venezia so boats had to be part of the trip... but why so many? Well, here's how it all happened:

Walk: As we had when we arrived in Venezia, we had to push our bikes through the streets. You see, Venezia is not a city for anything on wheels (too many bridges with too many steps) and bikes, despite their portability, just don't work that well (especially when their portability is hampered by the heavy bags we strap on every day). So, from our hotel in the northern reaches of the city, we had to push and shove our way through the tourist-clogged streets and up and down the unforgiving steps of the bridges of Venezia.

Bike(1): When we finally hit the Piazzale Roma, the only place in the city (at the end of the causeway from the mainland) where traffic is permitted, we hopped onto our Selle Royal saddles for the very brief spin to the Tronchetto, a huge multi-story parking area that gets packed with cars during the height of tourist season. Here, we caught a car-ferry out to the Lido ("beach"), a narrow stretch of land dividing the Laguna Veneta from the Adriatic Sea.

Boat(1): The car-ferry we took from the Tronchetto was exactly the same boat we enjoyed at sunset when we arrived in Venezia from San Giorgio di Nogaro a few days ago. It took us around the outside of the central city and out through the Laguna. We paused once more before the wonderful view of the Piazza San Marco towered over by the Campanile and flanked by the pillar-and-arched Doge's Palace click to view a photograph and then turned our attention south.

Bike(2): On the Lido, we paused to make phone calls to Gianni Stefanati of FIAB Ferrara (see more about this at our Person of the Day) about hosting possibilities in his city. We also shopped and snacked, er... feasted on a late breakfast/early lunch that we figured would have to hold us for a while. Then it was head down and push hard as we battled a nasty headwind to get to where we had to go.

Boat(2), Bike(3) and Boat(3): The Lido is not the only island-barrier at the edge of the Laguna Veneto. There are actually two islands - the Lido and Pellestrina - which, along with the isthmus sticking down from the north, are a natural breakwater that keeps things calm. To get from the isthmus to the Lido or the Lido to Pellestrina, you have to use... yes, you guessed it again, boats. And so we did from the Lido to Pellestrina and then from Pellestrina to the city of Chioggia (after a pedal down the island of Pellestrina). The only problem with the execution of what we had planned was the unforeseen delay in ferry service between the Lido and Pellestrina. We waited more than an hour to make the 5-minute crossing. Sure, it was great time during which to nap, but we all knew we would have a long way to go and not enough time to get there.

Bike(4): Once in canal-and-island Chioggia (the second most important city on the Laguna and always an ally of Venezia), we were faced with a dilemma. Since we needed to change money (for which we would have to wait a few minutes for the banks to open), it would not be until 4 p.m. that we would leave town. (Yes, despite the earlyish start from Venezia, it had taken almost five hours to bike and boat the distance to Chioggia.) Everyone had different ideas about how to make best use of out time, but in the end (and after having found a map), we chose to cycle forward.

After a pleasant spin along back roads, with the hour getting later and later, we arrived at Rovigo, a small city on the rail line to Ferrara. Corinne and Padraic opted to train from there to Ferrara, but Ethan and Anthony, too impatient to wait an hour for a train that they could probably beat to Ferrara, decided to... try to beat the train to Ferrara. Sure, the headwind was whipping things around, and the best road was a big and busy one, and they were both already tired. But why turn down a chance to burn more calories when it is presented?

So off they went. And boy did they go fast and hard. To their luck, the traffic was not as bad as they had thought it might be and the road was in excellent condition. But the headwind was blowing steadily. Thus, the push was a tooth-grinding grunt of a ride. But it was also very exhilarating.

Train: Meanwhile, Padraic and Corinne's train was somewhat delayed, and they were in fact later arrivals in Ferrara than the intrepid cyclists who pumped every kilometer from Rovigo. (Anthony and Ethan, who had arrived with enough time to stroll around the station area, got their first taste of how important the bicycle is to the city of Ferrara just by looking at the bike parking lot at the station. click to view a photograph Neither of them had ever seen such a tangle of bikes that are in obvious use. click to view a photograph Amazing.)

At the station in Ferrara, we called the two host families that Gianni Stefanati had found for us. (Thanks again to Gianni!) Through the growing darkness and chill (and despite one more flat tire on Anthony's bike), we went our various ways.

Ethan and Anthony had a short trip to the home of Giuseppe and Anna and their son Nicolo, while Corinne and Padraic's longer ride left them at the home of Giulio Rivaroli and Nancy De La Rosa. (See more about these wonderful people in tomorrow's Person of the Day.) In both homes, the fantastically hospitable hosts let us shower, made some food for dinner, got a special viewing of the BikeAbout Web site, made excellent conversation, and then sent the weary bikers to bed.

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