Here is a really excellent lecture by Professor David Thorburn on Italian Neo Realism as evident in The Bicycle Thieves (1948) De Sica.
He does a close analysis of the opening scene, from the moment Antonio takes the job until his initial meeting with Maria. He also elaborates later in the lecture on some of the key features of Italian Neo Realism and how it is responding to the social, political and cultural crisis in Italy at that time.
Here are my notes based on his lecture (which doesn’t replace watching the lecture yourself). The quotes can be attributed to him.
Here is part 2 of the lecture for some extended study: