Having made the decision to go to Rome and complete the Via Francigena it was now a matter of putting the idea into motion! I set off from Fosdinovo relatively early and enjoyed the 8km and 2,000 ft descent in the early morning coolness without turning a pedal. From there on it was one marble outlet after another as I rode past the epiecentre of what is home to the world famous Carrara marble. Carrara itself and also the town of Massa. ....
If you've got marble on your doorstep then makes sense to ensure your office building and garden ornaments are all marble too .... Passed a few confusing directional signs for the Via Francigena
After about 40 km it was a steep climb up to the Lucca pass, as I left the coastline and turned eastward inland towards the famous walled city of Lucca. At this juncture I passed more cyclists coming down the climb and had more cyclists pass me going up the climb in a one hour period than I have seen in the entire 1600 km thus far. Clearly a public holiday is a good day to get your racing bike out in Italy. Rolled over a few picturesque bridges
and then entered Lucca to get my VF passport stamped . From there it was a relatively flat ride for the next 40 km as I made my way deeper into the heart of Tuscany. For some reason there was a tribute to Banksy in one town
And lo and behold, directly opposite, a house with an Australian flag flying proudly above the door. In the middle of a small, non-descript town in Tuscany. Who would've thought?
Shortly thereafter the terrain became more Tuscan like. Rolling hills awash with sun burnt hay fields and houses with long white gravel driveways lined by cypress trees.
The Tuscan hills increased in number and steepness as the day wore on and once past 100km mark it's fair to say the heat and multitude of climbs I had to do began to take their toll. Eventually, I reached my accommodation and was glad for the shade, coolness and cold water on tap in my room after 130km in the saddle.
The sunset views from my balcony were pretty good too
- Hill of the day - the 5 km climb up to San Vivaldo which after 125 km was most definitely not needed - Number of locusts who met their death by colliding with my teeth - 1 (Yes , as bizarre as that sounds this poor mutha flew straight into my front teeth as I was grimacing my way up a particularly steep climb. I'd love to be a fly on the wall when he arrives at the pearly (ho ho) gates ... " Windscreen ? ... errr no actually I hit a tooth ""
- Moment of the day - 110 km into the ride with Tuscan hills looming I was on a very long and straight, slightly declining piece of road when 4 men all adorned in the same cycling outfits rolled effortlessly past me on their state-of-the-art bikes cheerfully saying "ciao" as they passed me without pause. For a reason I cannot explain, I was overtaken by some demonic force that compelled me to drop a gear and catch them up, joining the tail of their mini peleton in stealth mode to ensure they weren't aware of my presence. Keeping pace with them wasn't going to last long as I noticed they were doing in excess of 35kph.... so once I had regained my composure I then dropped a few more gears, pulled out of their slip stream and rode furiously past on my touring bike laden with panniers jokingly shouting out in my pidgin Italian ""VOI PIANO VOI PIANO "" which I was hoping meant "you're slow - you're slow " ....and not ...."" you're all penises - you're all penises " . They all laughed uncontrollably as I passed and once I was clear of them I raised my arms triumphantly as though I had won the Tour de France ... at this point the heart was in overload territory so I eased back off the accelerator and waited for them to pass .. as they did, each of them to a man not only shouted "BRAVO BRAVO " but also patted me on the back whilst still laughing as they pulled away from me at 35-40 kph. Sometimes it's the small things that cost nothing that give you the most pleasure.