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.