Che cazzo guarda!?” – Cruising through Toscana

The other side of the Apennines, at night

Last Monday was a very mem­or­able day. What an absurdly long, moun­tain­ous, sur­pris­ing, grue­some day, so exhaust­ing that my quadri­ceps halved their length out of ten­sion, my brakes boiled eggs out of heat, my water bottles expan­ded out of plead­ing for water, my sweat glands digi-evolved into foun­tains, and I’m going to stop with the super­lat­ives because one day, there will be a more bizarre day, and I won’t know what to say about it.

If Bologna woke us up with all our planned gelat­ter­i­as closed, that was just an augury. When we were just decided to leave, the last one opened its doors in front of us. The route was sup­posed to fol­low a yet non exist­ent EuroVelo 7 that led us through some nice gravel paths, some rose-thorn forests, and some asphalt land­slides to hike along with the heavy bikes.

The pro­file was not as friendly as the day to Parma. One huge straight climb at the begin­ning when still fresh, fol­lowed by a long long smooth and con­tinu­ous des­cent that keeps you at top speed for hours with no effort is awe­some, but the way to Firenze was exactly the oppos­ite: one ter­ribly long climb, wob­bling up and down, fin­ished by a strong des­cent that we reached only at night, and with a vis­ib­il­ity and an asphalt qual­ity not so friendly to speed.

But the friend­li­ness we encountered was amaz­ing. An old crazy cat lady, when ask­ing for water, gave us juices, crack­ers, and two peaches – all of which I ate myself alone because Leon des­pises peaches. When des­cend­ing at night a car driver offered to change his own dir­ec­tion and fol­low us in the des­cent with his strong lights to help us. And when ask­ing for water once more in a res­taur­ant, the wait­ress gave us min­er­al water and one large focac­cia for free.

In the mean­time some grue­some stuff happened as well. A piece of glass flattened my rear tire twice early in the day, but some mys­ter­i­ous thing flattened Leon’s front’s uncount­able times in the des­cent at night. He fixed it, put the wheel, and instantly took it out after find­ing out there was some new hole, so many times I would lie if I try to give a num­ber. Five? Six? More than an hour stopped in any case.

And then, when Leon screwed all my motiv­a­tion to arrive to Firenze say­ing he was too exhausted to con­tin­ue so he wanted to sleep in some bushes in Prato, he chose a tree in the riverb­ank. Nice spot, water foun­tain provided, looked silent: why not? But shortly after, a weird car arrived, and a guy went to the benches next to us to smoke and stare at us.

And yet oth­er cars arrived and stopped behind the pre­vi­ous, only to leave after some minutes of star­ing through the win­dow. Some driver went out of the car, but just to leave again. First guy fin­ished his cigar­ette and con­tin­ued star­ing. I was freak­ing out. A mafia meet­ing? Some drug deal­ing busi­ness we happened to be inter­rupt­ing? I poin­ted out my strong dis­like for the situ­ation to Leon, who just pro­posed to leave to Firenze. But I was in a bit of a bad humour already, and wanted to defend my space.

È tutto bene?“, I asked with a sober voice. „Tutto bene“, he answered. „Que cosa guarda?“, I added. „Niente“, he said. But noth­ing stopped from his creepy star­ing and the cars arriv­ing and leav­ing. That’s it, I thought. This is dan­ger­ous, there’s going to be blood here. Put my met­al Nazgul SPD bike shoes in case I need it, and let’s try some sober dip­lomacy. I went to the bench, sat aside but keep­ing the dis­tance, and asked in my best Italian.

—Hi, how’s your name?—while offer­ing a hand shake.

—X— he answered, with a hand­shake. —Are you inter­ested in sex?— he added.

— Oh, no thank you. We’re just trav­el­ling and wanted a place to sleep. Your pres­ence here is a bit uncom­fort­able and we will like to sleep in peace. Is there any reas­on for you to be here?—, I said with my best cold-blooded voice, total neut­ral­ity, try­ing to keep things cold for a pos­sible aggressor but still not show­ing an easy victim.

—Oh, but this is the place where all gays in the sur­round­ing areas meet for free sex—, he then added.

Holy crap how thank­ful I was for being wrong all the time. But holy crap again for my restrained face of per­plex­ity. The con­ver­sa­tion fol­lowed a few phrases with some com­pli­ments for my hand­some­ness and some explan­a­tions about the meet­ing point. Cars come from mid­night to 2am, and every­body accepts noes with no prob­lem so I should­n’t worry about oth­er cars. Then he left.

Leon and me „nos par­ti­mos el culo de risa“ as we would say in slang Spanish, which means laugh­ing the hard­est pos­sible but trans­lates lit­er­ally, and very con­veni­ently, to „we broke our asses laughing“.

In any case, we even­tu­ally arrived to Firenze, the city of my dreams. How much I’m in love with this build­ings and statues I can­not explain accur­ately enough. But I’ll try some oth­er time. On the mean­while, some change of plans may come soon. We’ll let you know about it.

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