Day 26: Montecatini Terme – Lucca

Distance: 38.52 km

Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Average speed: 21.1 kph

Cumulative distance: 1418.33 km

Cumulative time: 68 hours 10 minutes

Word of the day: ‘incantevole’ (een-can-tay-volay) – enchanting

A straight-line route from Montecatini Terme to Lucca measures only eighteen miles or so. This seemed like a feeble effort, and would have led to us arriving at our lodgings before they were able to accommodate us. So instead the Captain plotted a slightly more circuitous route, on quiet roads, with the occasional hill to keep us entertained.

We breakfasted in Montecatini’s main square – Piazza del Popolo. Not a large breakfast today, with so few miles to cover, but it was very pleasant to sit in the sun and savour our cappuccini. We set off in a westerly direction, to cross the plain between the Apennines and the Pisa Hills, which sit between Lucca and Pisa.

On our way out we were treated to a fine retrospective view of Montecatini Alto.

Today’s cycling was much more pleasant, on quieter roads with rather fine views of the mountains to the north. Spotting a small group or ‘road warriors’ ahead, we accelerated and tagged onto the back.

We were perfectly capable of matching their speed, at least until we hit a long uphill stretch. Tandems don’t climb well!

We were speeding along, although I’m not sure that this roadside sensor measured our speed entirely correctly – even on a very good day we’ve never managed 151 kilometres per hour.

Soon we encountered the only real hill of the day. We like the rolling countryside best – going uphill has at least two benefits – often there’s a fine view from the top, and then you can enjoy the long descent. Our route was bringing us closer to some excellent views of the Apennines, north of our destination.

It was just after this point that an Italian cyclist passed us, and told the Captain (in Italian) that the Stoker needed to pedal harder. He volunteered to hang around to check that she was doing so! This was the nearest equivalent to that often repeated joke offered to tandemists: “She’s not pedalling at the back!”.

Eventually we took a more purposeful turn south, and before long we reached the Luccan walls. Traffic within the walls is more-or-less forbidden (a rule casually and regularly broken by Italian drivers), but bicycles are permitted, so on finding a suitable gate (that of San Donato, to the west) we entered the centro storico and threaded our way through streets thronged with pedestrians and fellow cyclists until we located our lodgings.

Now half a day is clearly an inadequate period of time to spend on Lucca – it has available an embarrassment of riches. All we could do, really, was to enjoy a taster. So, having refuelled near Piazza Napoleon on Risotto (Captain) and Brie and Walnut salad (Stoker) we set off to make the most of our short visit.

Lucca’s streets generally follow a grid pattern, and every one seems to have something of interest. We visited the church of San Michele, admiring its beautiful facade.

Apparently Puccini was a choirboy there. Venturing in, we admired the simplicity of the interior, but were less enamoured of the grisly relic forming the centrepiece of the altar.

Next we headed to Torre Guinigi, a real curiosity – it has trees growing from the top of the tower.

We ascended two hundred and thirty steps to take a look, and were well rewarded. The view towards Piazza Anfiteatro, backed by the Apennines, was stunning.

In fact there were superb views to all points of the compass. We could even make out Montecatini Alto, in the distance.

After heading north to the enchanting Piazza Anfiteatro, we returned via the Duomo and the city walls to our lodgings.

It has been a magnificent introduction to a place to which we will no doubt return some day. Tonight we’ll have another wander before dinner.

Tomorrow we’re heading over the Pisan Hills to the town that gave them their name. We’re wondering if there’s anything to see there. 😊 Thereafter we’ll turn east and begin our journey towards the hills of Chianti.

Here’s today’s track.