According to the screen we are travelling at 249kph, which I calculate is 155mph, about twelve times as fast as I would normally go on a bike, and in a much straighter line. The seat is very comfortable, and the air is conditioned.
I can give my full attention to the view, without worrying about potholes, suicidal or murderous drivers, insufficently leashed roadside dogs, broken glass, sunstroke, dehydration, or any of the other inconveniences that have attended me for the last few weeks. It’s quite soporific.
Libre is flat out on the luggage rack above me, almost certainly asleep. The bicycle has been left in the capable hands of Julia in Rome, who will dismantle it as much as is necessary to fit it in a box, and post it home.
Home. I’m on my way. Three hours on the train to Verona, which I keep calling Verano by mistake, then tomorrow a longer journey to Munich, before an early start and a late finish should get me home a bit after bedtime on Sunday.
Verona, where at least two gentlemen came from, and where Shakespeare also located Romeo and Juliet. Do they know it’s fiction? You can pay a touristical fee to admire the balcony from which Juliet wherefored her Romeo. Shakespeare, as far as we know, never went to Verona. But we shouldn’t spoil a good story.
Yes, to answer your question, I did go to Hadrian’s Villa yesterday, my last day in Rome. Libre sensibly stayed behind – it was a joint decision – while I peddled twenty miles there and twenty miles back again.
Nobody could accuse Hadrian of being a spendthrift. He puts Imelda Marcos right in the shade. Unfortunately the heyday of his villa – which is more of a large town than the word “villa” suggests, at least to me – is well past.
There are glimpses of a glory that must have been, but mostly the marble is long gone. There are bricks, in a distinctive style, on the diagonal, the occasional pillar and half cupola, a great number of extremely informative notices in several languages, and lots of ruin and dust.
I stayed longer than I might have done, partly from the tourist’s requirement to get value for money, but mostly because I didn’t want to face the road back to Rome.
The road out of the city was busy. There are about ten miles before you see a blade of grass. There are some roadside cycle tracks, but you can’t use them because the positioning, and occasional emptying, of recycling bins mean they are covered in a confetti of broken glass.
Once out of the city the road narrows, but the traffic doesn’t get less. And there’s a lot more glass, and plastic, and generally dumped rubbish, some of it burned. Then you reach the travertine stone yards, which generate more heavy traffic, and more dust. Take the bus next time.
Libre isn’t coming with me. They wouldn’t want her at the opera, she said, and I’m afraid I agreed. So I’m going to La Traviata alone.
We’ve arrived in Verona at the height of opera season. In the third largest Roman arena left in Italy, and one of the best preserved, they have a summer of Carmen, Aida, Nabucco, Turandot and La Traviata. It’s a big arena, but there aren’t many tickets left for tonight. There are a lot of tourists in Verona.
Libre didn’t come out earlier, either. We were both hot and tired, she said, and anyway her contract ended in Rome. Go and be a tourist, she said, and I’ll stay here.