Twenty Thousand Leagues Above the Earth

Day 332, Florence, 20.367 km

If one day I start doing genealogical research (it seems that the probability of occurrence increases with age, you never know) and I discover a distant filiation with Jules Verne (a hidden branch resulting from the first marriage of his son Michel Verne perhaps), I will have to write a novel in homage to Great-Great-Grandpa, which I will of course call like this article. However, I will have to take some liberties with reality: Jay will become the Terrilus, with a guest suite, a panoramic lounge and 7 bathrooms. As for the propulsion, I will have been the brilliant inventor of a machine that, with one pedal stroke, releases the equivalent of a thousand horsepower. Bob will be renamed Nemo, will be of human size and equipped with arms (note this detail, it will be important later on)… Moreover, the Terrilus will have to disappear without a trace between Milan and Genoa, after having accomplished a long journey through Europe…

20.000 km. I knew when I left last July that it was possible that I would reach this total, but it’s one thing to imagine 20.000 km (a very complicated exercise that being said), and it’s another to pedal them. But strangely enough, the 20.000th km didn’t make as much of an impression on me as the 1.000th, I guess it’s just habit. I didn’t even stop to leave a trace of my passage…

On the other hand, I had a nice bike path for the first time since I’ve been riding in Italy: between Milan and Pavia, almost 20 km along the « Pavese » canal. It’s pleasant, clean, flat, and full of cyclists on this Saturday morning. Most of them are not there for fun and barely have time to wave at me as I pass. Others give me big gestures, smiles and even encourage me. And some of them even talk to me for a little while (only one, in fact). The road goes by quickly until Pavia…

The canal
Pavia, on the banks of the Ticino

The rest of the time, the road, in full sun. And angry drivers. One of them honks at me while aggressively overtaking. When I signal him that the road is wide enough for both of us, even if I’m not stuck to the safety barrier, he has an answer that doesn’t need any translation… Nice atmosphere… It’s hot too. It’s the first time since I left that I think it’s really hot. The bike computer tells me 35°. My watch says 32°. And my phone doesn’t say anything anymore, it’s overheating… In Genoa, I have time to get lost 15 times in the streets of the city center while looking for a restaurant, but I can still enjoy a little bit the Saturday night atmosphere before falling into bed…

Narrow streets, …
… we hardly see the sky!

The next day, I go along the sea to the Cinque Terre Park, whose merits and incomparable beauty I have been praised so many times (and I hardly add to that). It’s Sunday, it’s already 28° at 10am, and everyone has taken their scooters out to go to the beach. That does not make the way along the sea the most pleasant, but the sights on the sea and the various villages are worth the detour. In addition, it’s a permanent roller coaster: it goes up, it goes down, not a single flat kilometer…

Then it does not go down anymore and we start the ascent of the Bracco pass. 615m. Easy, I think. Well, no. We may have gone through the Alps, but a pass is still a pass, even a « small » one… On the way down, I cut short to reach Levanto, and I miss what seems to be the most beautiful part of the road. No matter, I’m going to the Cinque Terre now! I start the climb to Monterosso, the first of the 5 villages. It’s still as hot as ever, and it climbs as hard as ever. I sweat as much as I drink, and I fill my water bottles almost every hour. But I’m holding on, telling myself that the view at the top will be superb… Ha ha. THE cloud of the day, the ONLY cloud of the day, instead of giving me shade on the way up, decides to appear when I’m at the top and block my view. From every angle. Awesome.

First attempt
Last attempt

I continue riding, telling myself that the rest can only be better! Indeed, it’s a bit clearer, but I don’t have incredible views on villages perched on cliffs, with terraced vineyards as I was told… Weird. I decide to do some research, and realize that the best way to visit these villages is either by train, by boat, or by foot. But certainly not by bike. Jackpot. I continue on the road, which still offers nice views from time to time, and reach a fork in the road that goes down to Vernazza and Carniglia. I tell myself that while I’m at it, I can at least go down to take a picture. And it’s just 4,5 km (with 400m of difference in altitude maybe, but that’s another question…). I go down, I take my picture, and I go back up. While going back up this atrocious slope, a fleeting idea crosses my mind: what if the view was as beautiful from up there, just by continuing on the road? No, not at all… Well, not far…

Before the climb
After the climb

Finally, when I arrive at the last village, with beautiful clear views, it is a little late and I am in full backlight. It’s already difficult to see something with the naked eye, even the iPhone has difficulty to make a nice picture of it… Conclusion of the 5 Terre: it will be necessary to come back to do it on foot.

After an uneventful night near La Spezia, I set off again towards Pisa and Florence. I take a dip at the first beach I find, it’s a rather pleasant way to start the day! Especially since the sun is already high and warm. I take a little break for a snack at the foot of the tower of Pisa, watching all the tourists taking the same picture (the one where they try to « hold » the tower…) Did you say original? I arrive early enough in Florence to be able to take a tour of the city before eating two pizzas and a slice of tiramisu, and take a digestive walk afterwards to wash it all down (with a little gelato of course, I’m allowing myself all the culinary excesses at the moment!)

Piazza del Duomo in Pisa
The cathedral of Florence
The Ponte Vecchio
Another one who tries to walk on water…

And finally, I must confess that Bob wanted to « hold » the tower of Pisa too, but without arms it’s still complicated… or you have to imagine them very hard!

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