Your cultural guide to the 2024 Tour de France: stage 1

We begin our Tour de France adventure not in France, but rather in Florence, Italy.

José Been
by José Been 28.06.2024 Photography by
Dllu / Wikimedia Commons
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For every stage of the 2024 Tour de France – men’s and women’s – José Been is bringing you stories about the history, castles, geology, culture, food, and people around the race. A bit of couleur locale while you enjoy lush fields of sunflowers, beautiful mountains, and pretty little villages, oh, and some bike racing too.

Here we are again. It’s time for another Tour de France and another month of me, José Been, giving you daily blogs/podcast segments on things we can see alongside the route of both the men’s and the women’s race. I will tell you about the history, the culture, the food, the geology, and about the cycling legends along the route. I love doing these but I love your reactions even more so please join me as we go. Here’s stage 1. 

This year’s Tour de France starts in Italy. The first time the Grand Départ took place outside of France was in 1954, in the Netherlands. Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Spain, Ireland, the UK, Monaco, and Denmark followed but this is the first time the race starts in neighboring country Italy. The Giro did start in France, in Nice in 1998, but for the French this is the first time in Italy. 

The start takes place in Florence, or Firenze as the Italians call it. It’s the capital of Tuscany. Florence has the highest concentration of works of art per square kilometer of any city, or so the internet tells me. I wonder how you count that because what is art? Metaphysical dilemmas aside, it is true that there is a lot to see in this beautiful city. You could say it’s legendary. 

One such legend is situated near the world famous Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as the Duomo. Crossing the Piazza Duomo, you will suddenly find yourself in a vortex, a whirlwind.

Behind this phenomenon lies an ancient legend, and you know I love a good legend. Near Via dello Studio you feel a breeze that, in the colder months, turns into intense wind. This wind that ruffles your hair is the so called “Rifrullo del Diavolo” (“The Devil’s Sigh” or “The Devil’s Wind”) in Florentine lore. It’s a strange atmospheric phenomenon that hides behind a harrowing legend.

It is said that a long time ago, the Devil was looking for souls to take down to hell with him. He saw a priest and chased him through the streets of Florence. After a tense few moments, the devil caught up with the priest in front of the Duomo. Knowing what the Devil was after the priest told the Devil that he wanted to pray one last time before suffering eternal damnation. The Devil agreed.

The priest went inside the Duomo and the Devil waited outside for him to come back out. Everyone knows the Devil is not very keen on churches. The priest took advantage of this moment to escape, leaving via another of the cathedral’s doors without the Devil noticing.

Meanwhile, the Devil, bored from the long wait, let out a sigh. Other stories say he fell asleep and started snoring. Anyways, his breath created a slight breeze. Once he discovered the deception, his breath of evil turned into a veritable whirlwind. Since then, the Rifrullo del Diavolo has never ceased blowing. The Devil’s Breath still waits in vain for his chosen bait to come out of the church.

Let’s just hope the peloton won’t have a devilish headwind to Rimini.

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