Day 26

Today's leg is extra strenuous. The route from Massa to Lucca sends me 3 times up and down the hills.

And then, having just arrived on the second one, in a small village, it happens: all too happy having arrived at the top I briefly lose my concentration steering only with one arm, and crash into the ground. Luckily I was doing walking-speed only and there is no cars (or people) around to witness this embarrassing moment.

Result: a road rash on the knee, and a light bruise on hip and hand. At least I haven't been carrying that first-aid kid around for nothing now :)

To cheer myself up I'm pampering myself a bit when I arrive in Lucca later. Miraculously I find Lucca to have the best beer, the best pizza, and the best ice cream I've ever tried in my life! Okay, maybe I was just starved but "Momo's ice cream" (which I visited as per recommendation of my host Stefano) is definitely worth a visit -- absolutely delicious!

Day 27

When I wake up the next morning I feel dried out and it doesn't feel like I've slept much. Probably I should've drank more the day before. And yet I've decided to complete 2 Francigena sections today, around 90km in total.

While the first part of the route is reasonably flat and easy to ride in the morning hours, I'm having a new "toughest day" experience later in the afternoon: steep climbs and the heat (around 42C in the sun) are getting at me, and in between the villages I'm running low on water to drink/pour over my head. While the route itself is not as demanding as others before, it is a whole new experience for me cycling under those conditions.

A race cylist which is passing me on one of the ascents isn't carrying any ice cold Coke Zero either -- the phantasy I'm chasing today to keep me motivated. Eventually I reach San Gimigniano. The ice cold drink I buy at the first corner store in sight evaporates as soon as it touches my tongue.

I have little motivation now to spend any time visiting the village (I want an ice cold shower, nothing else!) so I head to the camp site, which is good enough for the night -- but not good enough (and at 19,00 EUR a bit pricy) to take the extra rest day which I had actually planned and which is much-needed. Oh well, at least the have a free swimming pool... which you can only use with a bathing cap (conveniently available at the reception for 2,50 EUR). What year is this, 1990!?

In the evening, another cyclist arrives: Edwin from the Netherlands (Utrecht I think) is on his way to Rome as well, taking a more old-fashioned routing approach: he's following the suggested way points layed out in a Dutch wine connaisseur's book. For the way back to Holland he's booked a Flixbus -- which apparently carries you and your bicycle back to Holland from Rome (with a stopover in FFM) within only 27h. Sounds like an adventure of it's own :D

As usual I've made too much food, but Ed comes to the rescue and -- despite being Vegetarian -- pretends to not know what the "Carne" in my Italian pasta sauce stands for. The red wine we share as well, but the majority of the bottle ends up in my blood that night.

I sleep like a stone that night.