the day I….(spotlight! Florence, Italy)

fished a bike out of the river.

Let me explain….you see, each and every day, my roommates and I would cross over this bridge on our way to class.

Now, the Arno is not known for being a “majestic” river. It is not beautiful, it is not all that clean, and I’m pretty sure the only animals living in its waters are regular ol’ guppies and the occasional furry little river rat. Therefore, on most days, instead of gazing into the (not-so) clear, placid waters of the river, my roommates and I would instead focus on the surroundings and goings on ABOVE sea level while making our trek to school. However, on one particularly sunny day, we decided to meander about the water, and paused to take a seat on the ledge.


Whilst enjoying the sun and a beautiful day, we decided to take a look at what we could find in the water. Now, a little background for you: during the 1960’s, Florence experienced a major flood, with waters that covered entire buildings, damaging countless homes, museums, offices, etc. In the aftermath of the flood, many personal possessions, as well as a large amount of “waste” were washed throughout the city. Much of the reason why the Arno is that “color” is in fact due to the trauma of the floods. You can actually still see water lines etched into many of the buildings throughout the city. So, in light of this knowledge, one of my roommates on that epic day casually mentioned, “I wonder if there are any dead bodies still floating around in the river?” (Yes, it was just another lighthearted conversation between friends…:) ). That topic quickly turned into a gab fest of who could name the most exotic item trapped between the murky waters below. Pretty soon we were no longer perched daintily on the ledge, but instead, were hanging over the sides, our butts on display for the unfortunate (or fortunate?? 🙂 ) passersby on the street, frantically scanning the waters for a long-lost tourist who was washed away in the floods, or a vault containing millions of lire (the currency back then) that JUST so happened to be nestled below in the debris and branches.

the bridge over troubled waters...

And then, we saw it. At first, it was just a worn out tire, poking out of the murk. But, after careful examination, and inching a little bit farther over the ledge (not to worry, mother dearest! safety first!), we realized that the worn out tire was attached to a bike! Yes! GOLD MINE! After just a minute, we realized that the bike would become ours. It was our last accessory needed in order to be a full-fledged Italian. So, like any normal person would do, we took off for our house, eager to gather materials to fish out the bike from the water. Unfortunately, the orientation manual for our school did not prepare us for this moment, and thus, the only supplies we could scrounge up were fishing wire and some bungee cords. Sadly, it was in the middle of the afternoon, so most stores were closed. Fishing wire would just have to do! With newfound confidence and vigor, we raced BACK to the ledge, our hearts a flutter with excitement and a twinge of worry. What if someone had seen us, and wanted the bike for themselves? (You must understand, greed had corrupted our thoughts from distinguishing all reasonable thought at this point….). We knew we had to get the bike, and get it fast. Thus, the tone was set for the next 3 hours…..yes…THREE HOURS were spent trying to fish that bleeping bike from the river. In order for you to understand the ridiculous-ness of this conquest, please try to imagine one of those games at the arcade, you know the ones where you try to grab a prize with the claw? But, instead of a claw, you have to use a wet noodle, and instead of only having to reach 5 inches down, it’s 50 feet, and instead of a plush toy, it’s a full-sized bicycle.

So, needless to say, after 3 hours, we began to lose hope. (I would like to add, though, that we DID manage to grab the bike from the ledge, but the string to bike ratio was just too great, and we couldn’t lift it…)

Then, A BREAK THROUGH! We realized that there was an opening in the river wall, where you could walk down into the inner part of the river. DONE. We quickly made the mile journey to the break in the wall, and climbed the rickety stairs down to the inner sanctum of the Arno.

After walking back to where the bike was located, we got to work surveying the “prize” up close. We realized we would actually have to get IN the river, so Alli and Stacy took one for the team, and slugged their way into the waters. While they worked, I documented, alternating between taking pictures of them, and dodging the “furry river rats” that I had hoped were only myths. Oh no, they were most definitely NOT.

so close!!

just about got it!

Finally, after another 45 minutes, the bike was ours….

hey there good lookin'!


Of course, the bike was COVERED in seaweed, rust, and other unidentifiable objects, and had a stench that reminded me of…well, something not so pleasant. It also had a flat front tire. But, by George, that bike was OURS! We proudly carried it BACK to our apartment, much to the dismay of others in the crowded sidewalks, who occasionally were sprayed with water that leaked off the rusted beauty that we carried. It was our Everest, and we were proud.

After taking it home, wiping it clean, fixing the tire, and buying a lock for it, we sat it outside our apartment, where it remained until it was stolen 4 weeks later.

Ha. And you thought we all lived happily ever after?? 🙂


  1. LOVE this story. I was laughing out loud, especially at the end! I am still so envious of your time in Italy…

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