Day 45 Sunday 15 July
Padova, Italy. (Luigis’house) 125km. Total 2655km.
We were cycling by 6.20. a big grin from one of the Belgians who are cycling from Neerpelt to Rome in 11 days, averaging 170km per day. Clouds are keeping the sun’s heat away, so it is cool and the cycling is flat. We stop to eat beside a line of trees rustling in the wind, a dike, railings for the cycles, prune conserve and yesterday’s pizza.
As a tractor is overtaking me, I realise that the loud hiss I hear is me, as I sink on my saddle. The canvas-patched tyre is punctured. While we are mending it, carabinieri stop and say things to us, but we don’t understand and they drive away.
At elevenses time, we ride past a mass of men outside a café uniformly wearing blue or white shirts and tan pressed trousers. We drink cappuccinos under the steamy shade, the newly washed pavement giving off clouds of haze. The country appears more pleasant to me today, slightly rolling, a blue view of hills in the distance more varied crops, especially the gold of wheat and barley stubble.
Lunch is beneath a round shadow of pine trees, there are two – one for us and one for the cycles. It begins to be hot, but is bearable because the morning has been cool. An ice cream at a level crossing café, and later cappuccino at a bar where men in grey hats play cards, with their hats off, and a TV plays a Hollywood sea story. Finding a farm to camp at is difficult; maybe we are trying the wrong places.
Eventually, tired and hungry, a lady leads us to a farm where the man speaks some English. He says it is no problem and I pitch the tent below one of the barn roofs, while Guy helps him with some ditch work away down the field. He is Luigi, likes to talk in English, and is studying agriculture at University. I walk the field towards them when the tent is ready, far hills coloured red and misty flat shapes, Guy a red speck.
Luigi has invited us to spend the night at his home in Padua. We agree. I take the tent down as lightening starts to clap above us, watching the shapes of it purple in the yellow sky above distant grey and Luigi working. An owl silently flies from the adjacent barn. We drive back to Padua.
Luigi’s flat is a penthouse, there are three showers, one each, a magical balcony, with a pale glowing view of the church of St. Antonio. Luigi is always in a hurry. He drives with wild veering between cyclists and oncoming traffic, very fast. He trips over things, bangs tables and chairs and drops keys. He is very effusive.
So we go for our three separate showers. I bathe to soak and get as clean as possible. The others are in the kitchen when I come out. Luigi makes spaghetti and meaty rissoles with aqua frizzante. Then he took us on a tour of the city, where he shows us the most ancient and interesting buildings so that we can visit them tomorrow. We sleep in the attic with lightning illuminating the room every few seconds. Doors and windows slam, and the poplar tree outside bends and strains in the gale.