I am writing this post after having lived in a city (Florence, Italy to be specific) for the first time in my life. I have already been here for almost a month, which is exceptionally hard to believe. I have been experiencing phenomenon and urban issues that I have been studying, researching, and blogging about for 3 years now. I walk 20 minutes to school each day, I buy lunch at coffee shops and delis, I ride public transportation if my destination is more than 3 miles away, I live in a small apartment in a mixed-use building, and I am constantly surrounded by people, sights, and smells that are foreign and novel. I expected all of the things on this list.
What I didn’t anticipate, however, is the difficulty of finding a place to exercise. This sounds trivial, but for someone who is used to simply stepping out the front door to a plethora of running paths, hiking trails, bike boulevards, and for that matter, neighborhood parks with recreation equipment, city life is a big departure. There is really only one park here—Cascine Park—and although it is lovely to run through, it does not exactly invite joggers to stop for stationary exercises (push-ups, jumping jacks, sit-ups, etc.).
I went on my first run the other day and chose a path that runs along the Arno River and through Cascine Park. To be fair, the route was beautiful and provided ample space to keep my heart rate up for a while. The only trouble was how to navigate the before and after portions of my workout. Walking to the park was not such a big deal (although Italians never wear shorts or t-shirts in the city), but weaving my way back to my apartment, sweaty and flushed, on the crowded sidewalks, was definitely uncomfortable. I see no way around this though, if I am going to go for a jog outside. This brings me to the possibility of exercising inside: buying a gym membership or enrolling in a studio class are the two main options. Indoor exercise is fine (I do play basketball after all), but there is just something freeing and truly exhilarating about blowing off some steam in the open air.
From the Urban Trekking Website.
Maybe outdoor recreation is a suburban luxury or maybe it is a Californian’s misconception of how the world works. Alternatively, maybe I am just looking at outdoor recreation too narrowly. Today I saw an ad in the newspaper for the Ninth Annual Urban Trekking Day in Italy. The event takes place every spring and autumn in about two-dozen cities across Italy. The guided walks, which move at a faster pace than normal tours, can cover anywhere from 1 mile to 5 miles and take anywhere from 1 hour to 4 hours. This spring’s treks focuses on the importance of water in urban life. Step aside “yogging” (as the Italians pronounce it)! Urban trekking is my new sport of choice.