ISI Florence professor Erika Bianchi’s latest novel “Il contrario delle lucertole” (Giunti Editore, 2017) is an intensely poetic book evolving throughout the course of four generations. It takes the reader inside the lives of its characters to find unpredictable destinies of mismatched couples and abandoned children, unconditional love, dreams handed down like treasures, and stories of bicycles and animals.
Dinard, Breton Coast, July 1948.
The historical event of the Italian cyclist Gino Bartali who wins the prestigious “Tour de France” is followed by the entire nation and felt as a payback in postwar Italy. Italians live this victory as a dream, a hope for the future.
The young Florentine Zaro Checcacci, is on Bartali’s team, working as one of the champion’s repairmen. Under the foreign French sky, in the euphoria of victory, Zaro meets Lena, a fifteen-year-old waitress.
Nine months from their romance, Lena gives birth to Isabella. We are in Ponte a Ema, a small village near Florence, 1959.
Zaro, married and father of a boy named Nanni, is working in his bicycle shop. Lena and ten year-old Isabelle unexpectedly show up. The man will never recognize Isabelle as his daughter, but she will establish a strong relationship with her half-brother Nanni. Twenty years later, while the wind of student protest blows, Isabelle is a young woman who has never had any desire to ride a bicycle. But she has survived her difficult childhood and has given birth to two little girls, whose destinies will be affected by their mother’s fate.
Professor Erika Bianchi, Ph.D., teaches ‘Ancient Rome: Civilization and Legacy’ and ‘Sport History and Culture’ at ISI Florence.