Pisa

Luca the rugby player was as good as his word.  A couple of hours later he returned.  He brought a present with him – a painting of the cellist in action.  After we’d had coffee and I forget what else, he made a special request – “Bach Suite no. 1 in G Major, the way Yo Yo Ma plays it.”

It might not have been quite how Yo Yo Ma would have rendered it, but it was passable, and the terrace restaurant applauded appreciatively.  Everyone here likes the idea of the English cellist on his way to Rome.

It was late before we’d exhausted the nuances of all the recent rule changes in rugby, and I slept with the windows wide open to the sea breeze coming up from 1500ft below.

In the morning it was only half an hour’s climb to the top, before it was downhill all the way to the sea – where the day’s prettiness ended.  Twenty miles of flat road with an unbroken line of bars and clubs and restaurants blocking the way to their private beaches.

At least it discourages dawdling, and I’ve ridden fifty miles by lunch time.  Ten more and I need to divert inland to look for coffee and icecream.  Twenty after that and the famous leaning tower hoves into view.

It’s been stabilised since I was last here, at great expense, and at the angle agreed to be just safe enough.  You wouldn’t want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, would you?

I asked a man with a machine gun – well actually I asked the policemen next to him, but they wisely deferred to the gun – who sent me to a hidden-away office.

Such things are not allowed, of course, explained Francesco with the stars on his shoulders, but I will see if we can make an exception.  After three phone calls an exception was made, and his officer would accompany me, to take such videos and photos as I required.

The officer thinks we should still keep off the forbidden grass, but I persuade him that on it will set less of a precedent, which he thinks is a good argument.  So Bach on the smooth and fenced-off grass of the Leaning Tower it is.  Not as good as last night’s, because I’ve just got off the bike after 80 hot miles, but I did try to make it in the style of Yo Yo Ma.

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