I wore a huge smile as I cycled to see the leaning tower. Just being in Pisa on a warm, clear Autumn day was a privilege. The Arno reflected the cityscape. Wasn’t that Galileo? Hey grandkids, it’s Pisa not pizza.
So many tourists trying to help, their arms out to prevent the tower falling over. So many that we had struggled to find a hotel and ended up close to the airport (where there was the consistent offer of fish to guests who don’t eat meat). We had expected to spend the night in another bike hotel down by the sea but an early morning swim wasn’t so alluring when it added 18 more kilometres towards dusk – not forgetting the prospect of cycling it twice since we’d have to come back to pick up our route in Pisa anyway.
I started the day with a double doppio. It was so good that I ordered another. The waiter delivered it together with a warning that Italian coffee was really strong. Four espressos worked well. I was primed for the next leg of our journey, the 77 km to Certaldo, twinned with Canterbury. I guess my doppios were twinned twins.
I told reception that my bedroom door came off its lower hinges. Tired last night, I hadn’t even noticed. Luckily no one else did either. My unseen neighbours shared a TV broadcast Rigoletto at a volume that enabled me to hear it clearly. I was in a cold bath treating a calf muscle and I was grateful for the distraction.
But that was last night and today we had to leave Pisa through throngs of self-focussed tourists documenting the support they were providing for the ill-supported tower. Then we cycled and cycled and it got hotter and hotter. The views were increasingly magnificent but my phone camera couldn’t record the light. [The dynamic range of the phone is about half that of our eyes and a proper camera is something like half way between the two.]
The cyclegrims just pedalled on, passing through tunnels of umbrella pines for several kilometres. We ate lunch on a siding that was effectively a back garden, lettuce being grown on top of a wall. One of the residents offered us water, a small boy watched and cycled around us. All that really mattered was that it was shaded, one of the few spots of respite from the heat and humidity.
We’re finding the heat is very draining. Much of the road surface was ruptured and worn out which also saps momentum. Couple these with dodging traffic and you can imagine how frustrating it felt. Then I checked our progress statistics and learned we averaged almost 20 kph for the day. And perhaps even more staggering, we’re averaging almost 19 kph since we reset Walkmeter in Bard. That was 550 km ago and includes crossing the Apennines.
And so we arrived in Certaldo, a lot the worse for wear and tear. Those last few klicks of steep, loose gravel roads must have wilted the Bishop Sigeric too.
It’s 1720 kilometres back to Canterbury from its twinned city. Which means there’s only 285 km to the Vatican.