Graziella, the bicycle you can call by name

Bicicletta Graziella, 1964

In Italy, everyone knows Graziella means “bicycle”. The women’s name was given in 1964 to a compact, foldable bike that soon became children’s best friend over the spring and summers of the following years… and decades! As mystery novel author Gianrico Carofiglio wrote in one of his books:

“It was the 1970s: bell-bottoms, Minerva refrigerators, “Rischiatutto” on TV, portable record players, Claudio Baglioni […], the Graziella, and an inflatable orange plastic pool in the garden” (translated from G. Carofiglio, “La casa nel bosco”, Rizzoli, Milan 2014).

Art historian Maria Perosino (1961-2014) has explained how the Graziella entered Italian people’s lives:

“This is how it worked: between the third and the fourth year of elementary school, all children – with no distinction at all – abandoned the minuscule bicycles on which by then they pedaled hunched over, their knees coming to their chins, and abruptly started riding a larger bike, which was almost always a Graziella. It was not an adult-size bicycle yet, but it had medium wheels and all you had to do to speed up was pedal a little vigorously. Boys got a red one, and girls got a white one […]: except for the color, they were identical” (translated from M. Perosino, “Le scelte che non hai fatto”, Einaudi, Turin 2014).

The Graziella was designed by brilliant Lombard designer Rinaldo Donzelli, and was first produced by Carnielli in Vittorio Veneto, under the brand Bottecchia. It was not targeted at Italian kids alone, of course. In our gallery, we even see French actress Brigitte Bardot riding her “Rolls Royce” (in the words of the advertisement of the time) and a puzzled Salvador Dalí, portrayed on a street in Paris as he carried some of his works.

January 4, 2017