In Rome I turned back north, passing three lakes in former craters. This turned out to be a very strategic choice – as temperatures started to attack 40°C in the afternoon, I quickly replaced cycling for bathing.
Also here was a lot to see, including the weird location of a castle in Bagnoregio – in front of you suddently opens a huge 300 m deep basin and from its center rises a rock with a castle.
A more demanding part followed: 40 km of dry no-ones land around the Fiume Paglia river. Hot weather, the rivers and all streams totally dry, no village or even just one house where you could ask for water. Luckily, I started after breakfast and with three more litres of water in bottles, but even this was just narrowly enough – in the first farmhouse I saw under Chianciano Terme I fought through two guarding German Shepherds just to get some water. Refreshed I arrived to yet another beautiful stone town on a hill: Montepulciano.
From Siena on, the stone disappears, brick reappears (how the hell did they build that narrow, high brick tower there, without it falling down?). This is a country of vineyards. I stopped at Monteriggioni, a town-in-fortress and as an ideal travel package of durable concentrated energy and nutrients bought a local Panpepato.
In San Gimiano, local patrons used to compete who has a longer tower.
The mid-Italian charm somehow disappears around Florence – the streets that looked beautiful even when shabby are now just shabby. Florence is, besides a few notorious monuments in the center, just a “boring” modern city. Pisa has that one tower with a cathedral, preserved fortifications, but otherwise it is quite uninteresting, in the middle of an industrial area.