Italy

Chapter Eleven: All Roads Lead to Rome

With check in/opportunity to dry out time not till 3pm I had some time to wander Pisa. There’s disappointingly little to do there so I got my token picture of the tower, which is leaning the fuck over if you didn’t already know, and spent an hour on Chapter Nine and making some Google map routes. You’re welcome.

I wasted some time wandering around until the free buffet (with a five euro beer) opened back at the hostel and spent the night drinking, chatting with no voice to some cool young Europeans and a second wind Australian. They kept filling up the buffet so we kept on eating till 11 when we called curtains and hit the hay.

In the morning I loitered. Anything to let my gloves dry out a bit more – one of the guests thought they were lost property and bought them inside the night before. I was also waiting for a reply to an email. A guy in Lucca, not far from here, was letting me change my oil and filter at his house. He ran an off road tour company so I had my hopes set on getting on one of his big KTM690s. Nothing had come through by 12 so I changed my plans to Florence, also not far away. Nothing exiting en-route, but the houses and vegetation were getting distinctly more and more what you’d call ‘Roman’ and citrus smell was sneaking in through my visor.

The satnav found the hostel I’d booked in Pisa pretty quickly. It was an old convent with enormous ceilings and echoey corridors. There was someone playing some classical instrument somewhere on my floor. The sound only got louder as I walked towards my room, 212. As I turned the key I saw why…

I forget his name now, but this guy was practising before his lesson in the evening. It wasn’t really my vibe and I’d had a call from the off-road guy asking where I was. The room was all ready booked so I make my excuses to both and left to see the city. The hostel was no where close so I got to see the dirty industrial side of town. Then the streets condensed together and the buildings grew taller. Till I walked into the square surrounding Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Then things got quite a bit taller…

 

I browsed the Leonardo da Vinci museum and the small streets for a couple of hours before heading back to the €9 buffet for a 5 finger discount (taking it and running off before anyone notices). Unfortunately the same didn’t work for breakfast and I had to dish out five Euros for quintessential sub-parness. Other than that, Florence is pretty much filled with dicks. Of the literal kind, and the kind that run around in tights throwing flags.

 

Finding my contact in Lucca was proving tricky with no phone signal and a special needs GPS. My first attempt, using the address he provided, took me to some back alleyway. The second stab using tourist information, a map and the power of assuming similarities are in fact the same thing landed me inside the city walls looking for number 7ô on a road with only five houses on. No luck there. Finally a voice message and Skype from WiFi hotspot got me through to the guy who put me straight. Like he couldn’t have just done that from the start.

I didn’t need him to open his mouth for me to assume he was independently wealthy. It helped though, as the independently wealthy are nearly always pretty much assholes. We chatted about his racing driver history, motorcycle rally team, house, career in boat maintainance and crew staffing, his previous travels and future travel plans, how much better his way of doing things is and how much better his bike was than my bike (he called it crap…I scowled). But beggars can’t be choosers, so I got to changing my oil and filter outside, in the rain, while he went inside to talk business things with obviously important people. He had a Bluetooth head thing. I also played with his dogs because he wasn’t very nice to them.

By the end of the change it was raining hard and I was deliberating the next leg to my trip. Host couple offered to put me up as it was already half 4 and pouring down. I politely declined and got to booking my hostel in Rome while they argued about where I should go, deftly put on my waterproofs and got to it – Rome was after all 5 hours away from Lucca.

It was the coldest wettest journey of the trip so far. My water resistant motorcycle jacket and waterproof softshell hadn’t done SHIT at keeping the water out and the wind chill stroked its cold hands all over my chest and legs. At dusk I pulled into a petrol station for a refill and a coffee. I wrung myself out, they laughed sympathetically. I handed them a soggy 20, they shrugged, wished me well and in broken English, told me to go slowly because the road gets worse. Hearing it was another 2hrs to the capital did not inspire me and my break-time exercises fended off the hypothermic convulsions for maybe only a minute until I descended into a wet, shivering mess of a man.

The hostel, about 40 minutes ride away from central Rome, was on the beach in a trendy part of town. But it couldn’t have looked like more of a shit hole when I arrived, in the dark, drizzle and accidentally at the back entrance. Broken chairs, old mattresses and industrial rubbish bins were there to greet me as I buzzed in through the compound door. But they had coffee and hot showers. I indulged in a quick McDonalds, having not been offered any food at the hosts house even though the female one of them cooked and ate in front of me. The guy was less receptive of my wet money so I had to deal with the manager drying it out for 5 minutes while my food sat there going cold and moist like I had been earlier.

Good thing about mild hypothermia though? When I put my head down I was out like a roofied narcoleptic.

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