Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lucca

I decided to get one more ride in before packing up tomorrow.  I thought I'd try riding north of Pisa to San Giuliano Terme.  So I rode through Pisa (there are some great pedestrian/bike only streets in the old quarter) and then headed north toward Gello, the only Italian town named for a fun-filled fruity dessert.  From there San Giuliano is a quick jaunt.  Too quick it seems, because I felt like I was just getting started.  On a whim I decided to climb over the pass to Lucca.  

It's a beautiful easy climb with long, wide switchbacks.  At the top is a tunnel a few hundred meters long, but it's lit and most of the traffic uses the autostrada instead.  After the tunnel is a very long, slightly-downhill run to Lucca.  Makes you feel like you're flying, even if only going 35 kph.  At Lucca's modern periphery you have some traffic and busy junctions to contend with but before long you reach the wonderful walls around the old quarter.  

I rode through the fortified gate into the 16th century.  On my right I noticed a paved ramp to the top of the walls and on impulse rode up.  To my surprise instead of a narrow wall it was a park, raised maybe 15 meters above the surrounding countryside, and about 30 meters wide.  It's so wide there is a walking/biking road down the middle, lined with large trees, monuments, some houses and other buildings for several kilometers encircling the town.  Unless you go near the edge you have no sensation of height whatsoever.  On another impulse I wanted to circumnavigate the city on this wall, and so I did.  Many people out walking, running, biking, enjoying the weather.  From the inside edge you can look down into the city at peoples' gardens, schoolyards, churches, palazzi.  It was fun.  

Eventually I reached the giant gate again and rode away.  I returned via the same route, enjoying the passo switchbacks going downhill now.  When the road from Gello entered Pisa's old quarter I got lost, eventually crossing the Arno far west of the city and returning home via San Piero di Grado.  This was an excellent conclusion to our Toscana visit and made me want to come back soon.
      

One of the fortified corners; note the height compared to the walkers

Lovely bell tower

Bell tower with cathedral

A round fortified corner; note size of oaks growing atop the walls 

Palazzo with elegant gardens

The neighbors opted for shade trees

Bell tower from the other end

Dandelion thriving in a fortress crack;
I think the sloped areas are cannon positions

Open meadows around the walls provide
a clear shot at assailing enemies


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