An experience of the WNBR in Torino (Turin), Italy

I drove naked all the way from Munich in Germany, through the Austria Inntal and a nipped through Swiss St. Moritz to reach northern Italy, to stay with Max, an American relative living at Lago di Como, en-route for the WNBR in Torino. We spent some of the evening trying to locate Orso, his red dog, in the local town, with the help of Lea, his salt’n’pepper Husky. Heading down into northern Italy, over the extraordinarily busy Italian roads, I reached the city of Torino. Once there, I saw an extensive police presence and hoped they weren’t for us. I then noticed a military parade in the main square, with bands and marching squads, and much stamping of feet and throwing out of chests. Actually, the discipline, and order, was quite impressive. I took in a coffee, and then went to the Egyptian museum, which did not impress me as much as I had expected, having heard it was proudly touted as being the biggest outside of Cairo, (I expect this does not include the British Museum). Then into the Baroque and Gothic museum in the main square, where I missed the fly-by of military aircraft creating an aerial Tri-Colori in the sky. Then back to the car to pick up my bike, ready for the big event at Parco del Valentino. Entering the park, I found two police vans, four police cars, and perhaps twenty police-men and -women in groups around the entrance, and no cyclists… I sat in the park for a while, had a capuccino, did a little drawing, and then spotted someone with a signpost on their bicycle trailer, who pointed me to the WNBR meeting point (!), just down the path and around the corner. Arriving there, I found perhaps two hundred people scattered around on the grass, many getting some body paint on, and waiting for the start. This seemed much more promising.

Not very many naked people though, in fact none, so I decided to remove my shorts (which made me the single naked individual of a couple of hundred people, and sat on the grass to await the start time. A photographer, Ornella Orlandini came and took a photo of me on the grass, just chilling out, waiting for the ride to start. Then three plainclothes police wandered across and told me to get dressed, for the World *NAKED* Bike Ride! I wondered which part of “naked” they didn’t understand. A journalist interviewed me and later I found myself, the Englishman living in Germany on an Italian WNBR, quoting this interaction in the Italian national newspapers. The important thing, though is to push the envelope, and so having waited for the start, we set off from the Parco entrance, with the police flagging down the traffic, north alongside the river Po. Almost immediately, I and a few other solitary souls, removed our last vestiges of clothing and continued the tour naked. It seemed as though the security, and anonymity, of being surrounded by a couple of hundred body-painted riders was sufficient to throw the police off the trail of the few naked ones. Also, being in the midst of such a huge crowd meant although people could see the naked riders, most of the riders to be seen were wearing some combination of shorts, bikini bottoms and funny hats, with liberal application of body-paint over many bared breasts and torsos. Stripping off once we were under way was definitely the way to go.

We headed up to the Piazza Vittorio Veneto, and turned left, stopping to gather momentum, and to allow stragglers, journalists and photographers, to keep up. Also stopping so that our leader, the organiser Eugenio Battaglia, could use his megaphone and speak to the crowds, gathered curiously on both sides of the road, to tell them about the WNBR, our purpose and our message. Onlookers laughed and pointed, nudged each other and took photos with their handys and with their tourist cameras, ensuring the WNBR image would be spread around the world. Now we travelled along the via Po to the main square, Piazza Castello, where we cycled around the huge stone edifice in the centre, and up and on to the main flagstones where a military band was playing. We were now mixing with the tourists in the absolute nerve centre of Torino, people were laughing and taking photos, left, right and centre. After a short stop here, we headed south and along to the Piazza San Carlo where we circled the fountain in front of the podium built for observing the military displays from earlier in the day. One man came up to us and shook several people by the hand, congratulating us on having the courage to make an environmental protest with so many people and in the centre of the city. Eugenio stopping two or three times on each street to maximise contact with the passing onlookers, and to ensure the WNBR message was broadcast to and received by as many people as possible. A policeman in plain clothes came up to me, as I was ahead of the main group I suppose, and said no clothes was unnacceptable in the city (again), so I snuck back to lose myself in the main throng and no more was said about it.

There were probably 300 (three hundred) male and female protesters in the event, of whom perhaps 20 (twenty) were naked, of which 2 (two) were female. Probably one quarter of rest of the women were topless, perhaps wearing bikini bottoms or shorts and body-paint. It is of course easier for men to be wearing just shorts and body-paint, but even then many were wearing underpants as a step towards nudity, and to express solidarity with the few of us who were actually totally naked. The crowd was great, one or two expressing the usual dismay at our clear lack of morals, the vast majority very much getting into the atmosphere and supporting the event with cheers and waving, smiling and laughing. We reached the main station and turned left again to head back the final stretch towards the Parco del Valentino. A naked man on a bicycle came up to me and asked me my name, identifying himself as Gianni who will be coming on the next Newt with his wife, Mira, in a couple of weeks. Cycling slowly into the Park, we felt a certain anti-climax and a peculiar achievement, the event had taken place in Italy for the second time. The WNBR had pushed the envelope and there had been several naked participants this year, ten times more than last year. And next year..?

After “the Ride”, we sat around on the grass at the departure point, as Eugenio had arranged officially for the area to be designated Clothing-Optional for the rest of the day/evening. There was a bar and music, and a mighty feeling of chilling out after the event, a good time to get to know some of the other riders by name, whom one had perhaps interacted with in some way and then just passed by on the road. There were the two female journalists, Pamela and Ornella (photographer). Paulo (the media man from Como) and his girlfriend Claudia (from Milan). She was very friendly, and I hope we manage to keep in touch as she will be good for the upcoming WNBR book I thought, and for Wally’s body-painting with Max, too. A particularly bothersome, but fairly harmless, swarthy-looking fellow, kept appearing by all the ladies during the ride, and now he made himself yet more obvious by sitting down next to Claudia and pulling his pants half down, the twit. Next he got up and started dancing naked next to some others who were also “moving to the music”, but his actions were so intrusive, (and actually not a little funny), that everyone else sat down until he went away. Eugenio was now naked too and we went to the bar and got a drink, and chatted to people, and everyone was very relaxed. Some people were walking past the group and looked a little surprised to see the few naked guys in this almost hippy-like post-protest group, but everyone still smiling and being pleasant, as one expects. There were some other people whom I met, whose names I now forget, apart from the very fine Raphaela, who was naked while her husband was wearing shorts, and he was pulling their children behind in a buggy on the back of his bicycle. What a fine example for the WNBR!

I should have stayed the night, but had nowhere to stay organised, so I headed back to Max’s place at Lago di Como, and the following day. went to the Villa Olmo where there was an exhibition of work by the Italian painter Boldoni – marvelous setting, gorgeous house and gardens overlooking lake Como – gorgeous paintings. La Bel’ Epoque.

Set off for home, via St. Moritz again. This time, as I left Como, I undressed and drove the entire way back, out of Italy, through Switzerland, through Austria, and into Germany, back home in Kleinschwindau, naked of course. 499.5km. Just cresting the switchback bends of the Chiavenna/St. Moritz pass, I saw two hitch-hikers, so I stopped to pick them up. They weren’t going far, only to the castle at the other end of the lake, where one had a gig playing piano. The two fairly mature ladies were quite amused that they had been picked up by a naked man, while all the other flash, empty, cars driving past had simply ignored them, and were interested to hear about the WNBR. They couldn’t sit in the back, as my bike took up the entire rear half of the car, so they sat in the front next to me, one on the lap of the other, and a little squashed, most entertaining. A friendly chat, a photo, and I wished them well for the rest of their trip, dropping them off at the end of the lake. The views around the St. Moritz valley were stupendous, sunshine and clouds, family walkers everywhere enjoying the scenery and the weather. A fine finish to a fine event!

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