Fabricio Ridolfi: Cagli's Karate Kid

story and photos by Steve Hertz
portrait by Lisa Emig

Portrait of Bico and SonJust off the piazza in Cagli, Italy, a rack filled with postcards invites customers into a small shop. A colorful mix of books, magazines and children’s toys are visible through the window.  “Giorno” says the gentleman behind the counter.  His name is Fabricio Ridolfi, but he’s known as “Bicio” – a name given him in childhood by friends.  His surroundings demonstrate his passion. Bicio thirsts for knowledge, and reading is his enterprise.

At 42, Bicio has already negotiated a lifetime of twists and turns. As a young boy, Bicio was a competitive athlete. He studied Karate for more than six years. In his late teens, he earned a brown belt and ranked fourth in Italy’s Karate National Championships. A motorbike accident fractured his leg, ending his competitive career. Bicio‘s leg healed, and he continues to be physically active.  He keeps a weekly workout schedule. Also, he has become an accomplished downhill skier.

 At the end of his competitive athletic career, he went to college to become an accountant so that he could take the reins of the family business. His grandfather opened the shop in the early 1950s.  It began as a single-windowed newsstand located in city hall.  The business grew, moving across the street to its present location in 1982.  The news shop expanded to offer magazines, books, and children’s toys, as well as school and writing supplies.
“I love it,” says Bicio with a half-smile and a twinkle in his eye as he talks about the shop. “I get to talk with so many people -- including my friends and family. I especially love July and August when so many tourists come to visit Cagli.  I love to meet people, think as others think, walk in other’s shoes, and always consider the other perspectives.”

Bicio follows his passion daily, reading the books, magazines, and other publications he finds within easy reach. His fascination with astrophysics, astronomy and philosophy makes him a great fan of Galileo, Dawkins, Darwin, and Newton. He also cites many classical literary works -- particularly the writings of Dante.  His favorite philosophers are Montagna, Socrates, and Plato.

During down times at his shop, Bicio enjoys solving the daily word game “Rebus,” a puzzle that uses pictures to represent words or parts of words. Whoever solves the Rebus wins bragging rights for the day, Bicio says.I love to meet people, think as others think, walk in other’s shoes, and always consider the other perspectives.”

Bicio keeps a grueling schedule at the shop.  His days run from 7 to 1, then back at 4 until closing at 7:30. His Aunt Annunziata, known in Cagli as “Aunt Tina,” brings Bicio breakfast each morning between 8 and 9 and helps around the shop.

While he enjoys travel and hopes to return to New York someday, Bicio stays loyal to his Cagli and the life he continues to build. Above the shop’s counter, a blue ribbon announces the most recent change in Bicio’s life. Four months ago, he and his lovely Chiara celebrated the birth of their son, Luca. 

Bicio serves as a perfect ambassador for the city of Cagli.  His customers enjoy a friendly reception, and he welcomes opportunities to practice his language skills with visitors from English-speaking countries.   He is eager to help patrons pick out postcards with images of Cagli that firmly imprint on their memories the time they walked in his beloved city.