The day dawned bright and sunny though a bit chilly. Ever since we arrived in Italy about three weeks ago there has not been a day free from rain or the threat of rain. Tim was on optimistic form this morning though – there should be no issues with today’s weather and the drive and cycle ride – all were pretty straightforward was his view. I had to agree – the weather forecast was for a cloudless warm day and Phil and I only had about 15 miles to cover on our bikes along flat terrain. And then we would be at our next campsite, situated very close to the leaning tower of Pisa. I have always wanted to see the tower ever since I was a kid. All very exciting. The route by road for Tim in the van was also uncomplicated. I was looking forward to not having to slog my way on the bike up a 1,000 metre mountain pass and not having to keep cycling for several hours in the wind and rain. I was also pleased that we could first visit the former residence of the Italian composer Puccini which was very close to last night’s campsite.
Puccini’s house is situated by the unspellable Lake Massacciuccoli near the small town of Torre del Lago. We wandered round admiring the various representations of the great man himself.
We had to admit that we didn’t know much about Puccini – though of course he was responsible for composing various famous operatic works as Tosca, Madame Butterfly and Turandot. And even if they aren’t your cup of tea I am sure you can hum the melody of Nessun Dorma, one of Puccini’s most abiding melodic gems.
He is so famous that his works are performed every summer in the arena near the residence. It looks a bit like a dockside with cranes but it was good to get the day off to an impressive cultural start.
We left the lake at a cracking pace only to find that the only route into Pisa was along a very busy and fast road. It meant we had to be on our mettle for the whole journey to keep clear of the speeding vehicles. My idea of a peaceful idyllic short ride was already crumbling. Tim’s insouciant words of the morning were already ringing hollow. Because of the uncomfortable riding conditions we put on a spurt and were looking forward to Tim already having made lunch when we arrived at the site. But Tim himself had got himself in a mess at the campsite – literally. The spot he had chosen to park the van had been soaked through by all the recent rain and our home had got stuck in the mud. Fortunately the site’s emergency rescue vehicle was on hand and towed the van out. Phew!
Tim admitted with a wry grin that he had enjoyed the issue-free day so far! Things definitely did improve in the afternoon as we made the short walk to the site of the leaning tower which is set amid the amazing cathedral square. We were bowled over by the beauty of the place enhanced by the blue skies. It really exceeded our expectations.
After soaking up the joys of the cathedral square we walked through the traffic-free streets of Pisa and were inspired by the architecture. More culture! But soon all this was to be offset by Phil’s developing interest in seeing the stadium of Pisa’s local football team, currently languishing in the third tier of the Italian league. Il calcio (football) as they say here is still the dominant motivating cultural force of the Bath to Rome team.
PS Next Monday we are due to arrive in Florence for another dose of upmarket culture. Theresa May will be our warm-up act as she is making a big speech in the city about Brexit two days before this. Wonder if she will mention Bath to Rome in her remarks?