Tuesday, July 6 (123Km, 1656m)

Not much to say about this day of cycling, except that it was hot—really, really hot. Initially I had planned to cycle from Padova all the way to San Giovanni Valdarno, where Kara and her mom were taking an Italian class. But the weather forecast said high 30s Celsius (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit), and the prospect of riding 300Km in one day in those temperatures did not appeal to me. I also wanted to spend the morning in Padova to visit one of my uncles.

So at 11.30am I caught a regional train from Padova to Bologna, and arrived in Bologna two hours later. Bologna is just above sea level, and the heat, traffic, and smog in the city and its outskirts made for the most difficult cycling of the entire trip, Mortirolo included. Out in the countryside the traffic and pollution subsided, but the heat did not relent. Even in Loiano (720m), up in the Appenine hills, the temperature was 34 degrees Celsius (93 Fahrenheit) in the shade. Wind as hot as a hair dryer blew from the west, and cicadas sang in the dry grass by the side of the road. The hills around Passo della Raticosa (970m) and Passo della Futa (903m) are beautiful, but I did not use my camera: it was too hot, and the light was too bright and flat for any good photos.

At 5.40pm I found myself in the little town of San Piero. I could turn left and pedal all the way to San Giovanni via Borgo San Lorenzo, or ride the shorter but hillier route to Florence and take a train the last few miles to San Giovanni. Tired of the heat, I opted for the second alternative. I pushed hard for the remaining miles, and arrived in Florence in under an hour. Two local cyclists showed me the way to the train station, and I hopped onto the 7.09pm train to San Giovanni.

The weather could have been cooler, but overall I was impressed: essentially all the traffic between Bologna and Firenze uses the autostrada (toll highway), but the old road is still quite direct. So it is possible to ride between these two major cities in under five hours, on scenic roads, and see very little auto traffic.

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