Day 30 Colle di Val d’Elsa to Pontedera

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The plan was to follow the ‘C” roads to Cecina, and then turn North, if I had the energy. Endless days of up and down, where my cadence never gets much over 50 are wearing; hours pass, and I’ve made 6 km progress – it gets quite disheartening; is it just me? The answer is a clear NO!!! after today’s ride.

Breakfast in the Hotel was damn fine – no hot food, but an amazing spread. When I entered the breakfast room there were several groups already at it; all in walking gear, so there’s some distance trekking happening hereabouts. I got stuck in, too; a big bowl of muesli with cherry yogurt, two chocolate croissants, a shortbread cake with strawberries, two  cup cakes, and a slice of apple pie to finish. Yum. Coffee and OJ helped wash it all down. A definite 7.

A climb for a change, up to Le Grazie. Steep, but OK. Then along the Via di Compiglia to  Castel San Gimignano, all on SR68. Fairly level till then; then the hills. I guess if you look at the profile of Italy, taking a line from Ancona in the East to Cecina in The west, it’s at sea level either side, with a big ridge in the middle, with ripply bits from the ridge either side – so no surprises that I was having to climb the last few hills before the West coast.  They’re still a bugger though – endless grinding, hoping that the next curve will see it level out, and then again… it gives plenty of time for deep thought as you gasp for breath, trying to keep a rhythm going; didn’t solve any of the great questions, but I did manage to keep my heartbeat below 190.

Every hilltop has a walled hamlet, or a walled village, or a walled town; this must have been an amazingly aggressive, war-like area back in the day – now it’s just eye candy for us tourists.

Clmbing all the while, I could see Volterra in the distance – almost a walled city. I’d made 35 km in three and a half hours; not impressive. About three km shy of Volterra a side road was signposted to Pisa – looking along it it seemed to drop down towards the coast, so I took a punt and followed it.

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A great idea. A swift drop – under brakes all the way, as the panniers make the bike unstable over 35 kmph, into a long, level river flat. Perfecto!!

Over the next 35 km I dragged my average speed up from 9.2 to 16 kmph – of  such small delights my life is made 🙂 I loved it; the same energy input was taking me five km for every one I’d made uphill. So much more fun. I stopped for a cleansing ale and a tuna sandwich at La Rosa,

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and kept heading towards Pisa – I was feeling confident about getting there; 2:00 pm, and only 24 km to Pisa – but…..

The Pisa signs led me to a motorway. No alternate route signposted. I just hate that; the assumption that everyone wants to get somewhere as fast as possible – it just sucks. Slow down, people. really.

There was a town nearby – Pontedera; I headed in, through the sprawling mess of high rise units and light industry, over the bridge into the centre – the old town. Booked into the Hotel Falchetto, An amazing pub – here’s the reception area. The minibar hair drier is the feature that sucked me in…..

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The hotel is full of antiques, and paintings – the current owner’s husband was an artist, and there are dozens of portraits of her all over the place – a couple of pencil drawings of her in my room. She’d be 70 now – and most of the portraits are of her nude. A bit confronting 🙂

Tomorrow I’ll head for Pisa; that’s (Smooth operatorSmooth operator) I have an inclination to see something there – at least I’m leaning that way….

See you down the road.

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