Day 31 – Pontedera to Marina Di Massa

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So – That’s the second time I’ve crossed Italy; the first time, two years ago, was across the North, from Trieste to Genoa. Next time I’ll try further South 🙂

Here’s a rough guide to my route:

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It’s accurate enough for the most part, but I went straight on to Pontedera and Pisa (how could you not see Pisa when you’re so close? the leaning tower is as symbolic of Italy as the Sydney Opera house is to Australia, or Big Ben to London; all better seen in the imagination than the reality, but if you’re there, they are a must see.

My hotel in Pontedera was a visual feast –

Shame I can’t say the same about breakfast.Cornflakes only – no other cereal; a couple of cakes – no yogurt; one pink juice, of some unknown and unidentifiable fruit, and coffee.  Pretty poor, I reckon; 65 Euro for a single room, and a crappy breakfast.

My room was at the back, opposite the main gate into the police station; every time the gate opened a siren sounded, and a yellow light flashed until the gate was closed again. On the North corner was the Emergency entrance to the local hospital – sirens on and off as ambulances came and went. Why the f&*%k they need the sirens at 3:00 am I don’t know….And on the Southern corner is the Town clock; it chimes the hour. for about 5 minutes. And the quarter hours.

I still slept; woke at 7:30, probably due to the intermittent waking during the night as sirens went, bells rang, lights flashed…

After breakfast I headed towards Pisa along SS67 – or  “Strada Statale Tosco Romagnola” – much more evocative than a number, right? It was busy, but safe; a generous margin allowed for cyclists by a painted white line along the road’s edge. I’ve been in the mountains for days – quiet roads, so this is a refreshing reminder to me of how busy things can get.

Through Cascina – the ss67 loops around, bypassing the town; I rode through the centre, picking up the main route on the far side – and into Pisa. A surprisingly big city, with some amazing buildings along the river’s edge – it must have been a very busy port back in the day. Made my way to the ‎Piazza dei Miracoli; meh. It’s like the Giant Marino in Goulbourn; better in the expectation than the reality. Ten zillion tourists pretending to be mimes, holding it up, or leaning to make it look straight. Is it just me? Am I the only one who looks at all these fuckwits and despairs? Maybe. An amazing number of Chinese tourists. All ignoring the keep off the grass signs – which are in Italian, French, English and German….

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I asked for the way out of town at the Tourist info office – they couldn’t tell me. I stepped outside, opened my tablet, and found that the way North was straight along the road outside the tourist office – sums them up really.

The SS1. Busy. A nice safe margin provided by the white line, until you hit a village, or a bridge; when you need the margin the most, it vanishes. Car is king.  Fortunately Italian drivers view cyclists as a special class of vehicle; they will quite happily wait until it is safe to pass – very rarely will you find an aggressive driver.

At ViareggioViareggio, the main drag becomes an Autostrada, and I had to follow the coast road. A delight; it runs along the ocean (sorry, sea) edge, painted blue, and separated from the road by  a concrete barrier. And it runs for miles – I’ve traveled twenty-something km along it, and it still continues ahead.

At the 70 km mark I found a pub. Five and a bit hours since leaving Portedera, and that’s about enough. I’m in the Hotel VersaliaVersalia; rooms are good; I’ll see how breakfast is tomorrow. It’s a two star hotel, but still cost me 70 Euro. Ouch. Not a cheap stretch of coast.

See you down the road.

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