Monthly Archives: August 2015

San Marino

One of the things I liked about San Marino was the unofficial name of the country: The Most Serene Republic of San Marino. I also had found out that it maintains diplomatic relations with the Vatican and Monaco, which conjured up some images of ambassadors having tea together discussing the respective qualities of the countries they represented…

When I left Pieve Santo Stefano, I was mentally prepared for a hard day’s work and that proved to be true. In the beginning I had to climb to the Via Maggio Pass, then gentle cycling through the Marecchi Valley, and in the end some more climbing because the Most Serene Republic of San Marino is also the Most Mountainous Republic of San Marino… Still, I was surprised to find out that I could easily see the Adriatic Sea in the distance.

In the Most Serene Republic of San Marino I took residence in the San Marino Hostel which had a nice toilet:

Sammarinese toilet. You'll google that and you find this...

Sammarinese toilet.

Some of the most useless things to buy in San Marino are poststamps as they can only be used to get mail delivered within the country.

The National Palace is guarded and the Changing of the Guards is every hour on the half hour until september. The National Palace doesn’t need guarding in the winter it is thought.

The first day I walked all over the city of San Marino and I found it most satisfying. In the afternoon it gets very busy with tourists arriving from nearby Rimini.

San Marino selfie

San Marino selfie

The second day I did some laundry and then charged my laptop as I was having a nap.

From San Marino I will continue to Italy, which will not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever seen a map of San Marino.



Cycling in Tuscany

The day after I had arrived in Pieve Santo Stefano was a Sunday. When I woke up it rained and it kept raining till noon. When I finally cycled down to the village I found the local supermarket had just closed its doors. On the way back I noticed an apple tree and I stopped to pick up some ripe fruit that lay underneath it. That eveningI cooked the apples and made a stew together with a package of instant mashed potatoes that I often keep as an emergency ration. It was delicious. Living from the land, I thought.

This part of Tuscany was great for cycling and I made some daytrips in the surrounding countryside. In Caprese Michelangelo I took some pictures of the church where Michelangelo was baptised and, a bit further uphill, the house where he was born in 1475. In my previous post I wrote that he was born in Chiusi della Verna, but this is not true.
In his day it was thought to be the year 1474 because according to the Florentine calendar the new year started on March 25th. It wasn’t until 1582 that they found out they were wrong and converted to the Gregorian calendar: October 4, 1582 was followed by October 15, 1582. This must clearly have left a lot of people unsure of when exactly they were born and how old they were…

House where Michelangelo was born.

House where Michelangelo was born.

From Caprese Michelangelo I rode to Chiusi della Verna along a beatiful scenic road, which was hard work but worth it. In Chiusi della Verna I parked my bicycle by the main road and hiked up the hill to the monastery which is known as the Sanctuary of La Verna. When I arrived I could see a line of chanting monks entering the church and tourists thronging after them to see what they were up to,. Inside the church the friars stopped chanting and just stood together before they left the church again. The crowd dispersed.

This sanctuary is known as the place where Saint Francis of Assisi received his stigmata. I don’t know the theological significance of these stigmata , but I am sure you can find them on Facebook.

I really don’t like Italians.
But then there was the big mother of the family with the screaming children and she came over to my tent and gave me a plate of tagliatelle calamari.
You eat, she said.
And so I did.
Or the old man who helped me push the bike when he saw me wrestling it steep uphill. He just smiled serenely when I tried to thank him.
Or the young man who invited me for coffee and when his children came, lovingly sighed: Now it’s no more quiet.
Which was so true….
Or all the drivers and cyclists who put up their thumbs when they saw me struggling up a moutain pass and who were shouting: Bravo!!
But I hate the rest of them. All of them…

Anghiari is a beautiful mediëval town. It has a walkway the ancient walls where one can look out over the field where the famous battle of Anghiari was fought. Thousands of soldiers gave battle here on 29 june 1440, but luckily there was, according to Machiavelli, only one casualty: [who] fallen from his horse, was trampled to death… Another source mentions the unfortunate soldier drowned in a swamp.
Inside the city there were old towers, crumbling walls and cobble stones. Apart from a few tourists strolling the streets, it was eerily quiet. At the Gate of the Catorcio there was a sign that read: “… In a space on one side of the gateway, which in the past would have been used as a urinal, there is an arrow slit from the old walls”. Of course I had a look inside the niche and from the smell in there I could tell that local men had taken up the old habit again.



Dog days

From Florence I cycled into the Apennine Mountains. The thing with mountains is that they are beautiful from either a distance or from the top. Everything in between is just hard work. The first challenge was the so called Cosuma pass which goes straight uphill and is very steep. The pass is at 1060 m on my Michelin map (whereas Florence is at roughly 50 m) and due to poor planning I only found out about the pass when I arrived at the hilly part. As a result of more poor planning I had only eaten some muesli for breakfast and had brought very little food along the way. At an altitude of some 280 metres I decided to have a look at the map and only then did I notice the pass. The road was going up and at parts I could only do a few hundred metres before I had to stop to cool down and regain my breath. I wasn’t feeling very well, my stomach was upset, maybe because of the meagre breakfast I had enjoiyed, and I was seriously contemplating to get back to my hostel and have a lie down on the bed before going any further. At some point I had actually turned around my bicycle, but then I thought I’d better had a look around the next curve to see if perhaps the slope might be tapering off to a more acceptable level. When I reached the curve I found a  little village and I bought some food and fruit juice. After having eaten I felt better and decided to go on. The slope didn’t taper off and sweat was dripping from my head on my knees and my shirt  was drenched while temperatures sored well above thirty degrees. At the top it was a bit cooler and thankfully I sat down in the shade to celebrate my achievement.

From Poppi I made an excursion to Pratovecchio to visit the nearby  Castello di Romena. One of the towers of this ancient castle served to keep prisoners and was divided in different levels of desiribility where prisoners were kept according to the severity of their crimes. It is thought to have inspired Dante, when he was writing his Inferno, to split up the underworld in his famous Circles of Hell.

In the toilet block at the campsite I was checking my phone that I had left there to charge. An Italian girl came in and said something to me.
No parlo Itialiano, I said apologetically.
She looked at my phone and said “Telephone”, then she put up her thumb and said: “Good!”.
It seemed to me that we had a communication problem. Did she approve of me having a phone? Or did she think it was a particularly nice phone? Or was it simply because she thought it a marvellous idea to charge it in the toilet blocks? Giving up on the idea of having a meaningful conversation, I smiled and said: “Yes, beautiful telephone. I like it very much myself”. And left it there.

From Poppi I cycled to Pieve Santo Stephano which involved another pass. This time it was La Verna and some people had warned me that it was harder than the Consuma pass, but it wasn’t. It was long and winding, but not as steep and it was just steady going. It was a beautiful day and if the going was slow and it was still hard work, at least it was manageable. That meant I could keep going and I didn’t had to stop and gasp for air with throbbing veins in my head from overheating in the blistering sun.

Close to the pass is a stony outcrop which is called “Adams Rock” which is not to be confused with Adams Rocks in Antartica, though you could probably tell because of the temperature. Adam’s Rock lies next to the house where Michelangelo was born and was later used by the artist in his work “Adam’s Creation” that can now be seen in the SIistine Chapel in Rome. Apparently, it is meticulously copied which filled me with wonder: why would Michelangelo copy this rock in detail where obviously poetic license would allow him to choose any estheticly pleasing form to let Adam rest upon while being given the sparkle of life… Something for Dan Brown to find out….

August in Italy is still hot, but it comes with more rain than July. This morning I was lying in my tent and listening to the rain which, after so many hot days, is still a welcome and exciting phenomenon. Because I have wifi I spent some time on the internet which, most of the time, is a fruitless excercise where I end up checking lists like: Nine ways to fold your pyjamas.


From Pisa I cycled along the Arno to Florence, which was easy going apart from the last bit where there were some hills that simply didn’t make any sense. But they were there nevertheless..

The reason that so many young Americans come to Italy is that they serve American food. Pizzas can be found on every street corner and high caloric icecream is readily available as well. Only too bad the Italians speak the worst American in the world…

In this cradle of the Renaissance I spent endless hours on the Piazza della Signoria to sketch Michelangelo’s statue of David. It’s not actually Michelangelo’s, but a copy that is positioned outside the Palazzo Vecchio where it originally stood before it was moved inside the Academia, where you have to pay money to see it. The outside location can be seen for free and it has the advantage that one can observe the amazing details as the revolving  sun (revolving earth, I know) slowly projects shadows and in this way shows subtle curves, that you don’t see when it’s illuminated by a constant light source.


Perseus, same ‘legs too short’ problem as my Davids, but nice enough to upload to this blog. It’s a bronze by Cellini and I liked doing it in black.

For some reason I couldn’t make a satisfactory sketch of David and it almost became an obsession, but in the end I had to admit failure. I couldn’t do David. Every time there was something wrong. In the beginning I drew the legs too short and it took a while to figure that out. Then the left arm that holds the sling was the problem. The right size and angle in relation to the torso. It drove me mad. A girl that was sitting next to me for a while, made me a compliment. It really looks good, she said. She must have been suffering form river blindness or some other affliction of the eye, because she was looking at poor David where  Picasso had contorted the face and twisted the legs and Modigliani had elongated the torso.

Me and Michelangelo. Somebody told me that the scribble on the back is Michelangelo's.

Me and Michelangelo. Somebody told me that the scribble on the back is Michelangelo’s.

Entrance to the Uffizi was free on the first Sunday of the month, so I had to wailt a while to admire the famous works of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Boticelli, Titian and Caravaggio. There were a few Rembrandts but they were dull and dark.

I found out that the selfie camera on my smartphone made mirror images of me. So I made this picture of the Gucci store with the normal camera so you can read 'Gucci', but then still see me in a mirror image. If you want to see the real me, you have to read this blog with a mirror...

I found out that the selfie camera on my smartphone makes mirror images of me. So I made this picture of the Gucci store with the normal camera so you can read ‘Gucci’, but then still see me in a mirror image. If you want to see the real me, you have to read this blog with a mirror…