Central Movement: the first bikecafè in Sicily
- A project supported by Impact Hub Syracuse.
It’s Tuesday afternoon and I walk through the little streets of Ortigia, towards the Bikecafé of Chiara Pota and Alfonso Peralta. Today, they proposed to take me to a place that has a very special meaning for them.
We walk along the water on the gulf side of Ortigia and I am curious: why is this place so important to you?
It’s the story of our foundation. It was the second January 2014, a year and a half ago – explains Chiara smiling – We went here along this beach for a walk at sunset. Hand in hand, very romantic. There we saw a sign in one of those beach houses: “For sale”, that was the moment when the idea of doing something here came to mind for the first time. We wanted a place to be happy, and here we found it. The initial idea was to find a place with lots of rooms to create something similar to a BnB, dedicated to cycling, because we are passionate about bikes. This first idea has changed a bit until today, but it was born and grew up here. Before coming to Syracuse, they both lived and worked in Milan. Chiara in communication and Alfonso as graphic designer for advertising. “We decided to change because we were tired of the things we were doing. We wanted to do something in a new, less business-oriented place like Milan, a place with a different lifestyle, where we could give a signal to future generations, the community and the territory. A business like a bikecafé is a positive signal. We can proudly say that we are doing something good for the city and the community.
Why did you choose Syracuse as your business location?
There are several reasons – says Alfonso – first of all it is the city where I was born. From time to time I would come back for holidays and I realized that it is a beautiful place: on the sea, with a quiet lifestyle. Just what I missed in Milan. Another reason is that this city is a bit like a blank canvas, a territory that is still little exploited. So if your business is well planned and structured, you have a good chance of success, because there are not many competitors around.
Tell me something about your business, what exactly are you doing?
We offer healthy, organic and local food from morning to night all day long. We also rent bikes and have the tools to repair them for free. We also give information to people who want to ride a bike, such as special itineraries. Once a week we offer a group bike tour.
Is this your mission, to give people an understanding of these values?
Yes, we try to communicate our values by living them. There are still only a few people who are really sensitive to the problems of sustainability, sustainable mobility or the focus on food and garbage. For our activity we have realized that, in Syracuse and perhaps all over Sicily, there is still little awareness of the fact that what we do today will have an impact on our future. There is still no culture of this awareness. Therefore, people do not worry and take responsibility for their actions. We hope to strengthen this awareness through our activities.
Before opening the bikecafé you were very close to Impact Hub. What happened there?
Our first contact with Impact Hub was in Milan. We participated in a one-day training for start-ups. There we found a flyer showing all Impact Hubs around the world. I saw that there was also one in Syracuse and I was surprised! So when we decided to start our business in Syracuse, we contacted them and immediately organised a consultation. Thanks to the Business Clinic, we were able to focus more on the weaknesses of our business strategy. It was an important process for us.
What does Impact Hub Syracuse represent for you?
It is very valuable for innovators in the city, it is a window on the world for Syracuse. Their mission is truly exceptional. The hub and the people who attend it wants to have a positive impact on the territory, create collaborations and synergies. Breathing those emotions gives us a lot of power and courage.
What can a digital nomad expect from this place?
I think Syracuse is the perfect place for digital nomads, an ideal environment: the climate is pleasant, it is less expensive than other cities and there is no stress. Also you can eat really well and besides the sea there are also mountains.
What could a working day in Syracuse be like?
This is not a big city. It’s just a few steps from the office to the beach. After waking up, you can take a first bath, go to work, have lunch at the beach and then return to the office. There are many nice places to eat or drink in the evening. You don’t have any external disturbances like in a big city and this allows you to concentrate on your work. In the end it is a bit like in a big family with this small town. After some time you will get to know everyone. Getting in touch with real people, with friends, were things I missed a lot in Milan.
Let’s go back to Movimentocentrale, where they make me taste their brand new “Green Juice” – made with green apple, cucumber, lemon and ginger. More and more customers crowd the place because it’s aperitif time. Most of them drink the “Semedorato”, a Sicilian beer, Chiara moves from table to table, serving small glasses with couscous snacks and explaining with a kind smile how it is made. Alfonso advises a French couple interested in bike rental and invites them to the weekly joint bike tour, offered every Thursday evening. Around ten o’clock, when it’s dark, we take our bikes and go together to beautiful places around Ortigia. Sometimes we take a bath or play music together. Everyone is invited to participate.
Thank you Alfonso and Chiara!
Text, Photos and Graphic: