10th to 12th September 2016 – Faenza to Marradi, to Borgo San Lorenzo, and finally, home to Florence.

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Saturday 10th September. We managed a relatively simple cycle and drive through the mountains, down from Faenza to our penultimate hotel stop in Marradi, a little town twinned with Castelnaudary, the town where we stayed last week in France.

We enjoyed our overnight visit in the lovely ambiance of the Palazzo Torriani , easy to find, in the centre of Marradi. Close to a coffee bar where we had an aperitivi before finding the only one, of the four restaurants recommended for an evening meal, open. Predictably it was rather full, so the only one-waitress service was somewhat slow!

This part of the Mugello is famous for the sweet chestnut that is ground into the flour, which was used by the Contessa to make the delicious dark brown cantucci biscotti that she gifted us on our departure.

Her frescoed bedroom ceiling with chandelier in a minor bedroom, puts mine in the shade too!

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Our final challenges were Sunday, crossing the Apennines, and Monday, getting safely down into Florence and through the City without any further traffic violations.

We did a pre-check on the roads for both activities and even the idea of struggling up those massive mountains on a bicycle, just to later clutch fast to the brakes to try to maintain any sort of control on the descent, certainly didn’t appeal to me!

Husband, however, still thought it would be a fun challenge, and by now I know better than to try and stop him if he really wants to achieve something!

I spent Saturday night in fitful sleep, waking in terror at a recurrent vision of husband hurtling down one of the hillsides we had rekkied that afternoon , failing to brake in time to make it round one of the many hairpin bends at the bottom of them, hitting the low metal barrier designed to put a brake on cars but which would catapult a cyclist straight into the ravine! I drive up, and naturally there is nowhere to park, but I have to stop, then peer over in terror. The first time to find Husband hanging on to one of the fir trees in the ravine below, and I ring 112 for a complicated rescue, however later, as the nightmare develops momentum, I arrived to look over and realise that the yellow blob below is now just a lifeless bag of broken bones.

Obviously, I wouldn’t be writing this if the reality hadn’t been entirely different and Husband really did meet me safely at every agreed pit stop with a big grin – feeling amazingly pleased with himself!

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So, despite for me, a sleepless night, Husband arose bright and breezy, completed the challenge with gusto and is feeling rather proud of himself!

We were staying in an agritourismo La Toppaio in Borgo San Lorenzo for our last night on the road. As they only do lunches on Sundays we found that this meant another Sunday night searching a small seemingly dead town for an open restaurant! Happily, as in Blain, we found that there is a Pizza place, open from 19.00, in Borgo San Lorenzo on a Sunday night!

The next morning we overslept a little so no run for me before breakfast, and then set off again for what we had expected to be a fairly simple glide down the hill into Florence.

This illusion was quickly shattered by the reality of going over the top of the hills surrounding Florence before the long descent with the commuters rushing to get into the City. This proved to be the most dangerous day of all, although we were still driving through beautiful scenery on the upward slopes there was a lot of traffic on the downhill strait and the only stopping points were by refuse dumps, which made getting romantic photos of our final day somewhat challenging!

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En route we passed two large groups of young black guys, the first group on bicycles going quite fast, and the second quite jauntily walking along the road, we presumed they were immigrants seeking work. One of the second group was positively dancing along, wearing a large red top hat and a red T-shirt with the word REFUSE written on it. He gave me a huge grin and a wave – I can only admire his spirit and wish him well in a country with so few jobs available for anyone.

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The final challenge was getting into Florence city and parking the car , we had agreed a point where we would split as a result of our previous days rekkie so John went straight through town and got home in 20 minutes. Tyrant Jane insisted on taking me to the SMN station and onto Via della Scala, which I knew would incur me a fine from following a similar SatNav instruction last year, so I turned off hoping she would recalibrate- which she did! However, she then sent me on a route around parts of the City I had never seen before, past the English Cemetary and finally triumphantly directed me to another road that could only lead me back to the station and Via della Scala! Once again I swung off and then switched Jane off and decided to make my own way across the river – only to find myself in another traffic jam leading up to Piazza della Indepenza,where the police were directing all traffic back towards Fiesole whilst the road-sweepers were  laying sawdust over what might have been a long trail of blood!

So, I was forced to set off on yet another round of the City,and finally reached home a full hour after Husband!

Boy! Was Home ever so Sweet to get back to?

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