In the morning, Akila and Simone drove me back to the cafe, and we said our goodbyes before I started my run out of town. The night before Simone had showed me a map of a sentiero that ran from Bologna to Firenze (I didn't know about it the day before), and while I had missed the first half of it, I was excited to get off the roads and back onto some mountain trails. I ran around a panoramic road around the lake (the one that I had swam in the day before) before finding a red and white trail sign that had "Bo-Fi" scrawled at the bottom of it. From then on, it was an amazing (and on occasion, amazingly difficult) Tuscan mountain trail. Basically, it felt like I was running through a scene from Gladiator...the whole time I was kind of expecting that a Roman soldier on a horse would storm out of the woods and cut off my arm. Didn't happen, but I did come across a pretty cool old convent in the mountains, where I stopped and had some lunch and something to drink. There were a bunch of nuns standing around with the black and white outfits, and it was cool to see them talking and giggling amongst themselves just like any normal group of girls.
After lunch, I was pretty tired, so I walked for a while to let my food settle. Even when I started running again, I kept having to slow down to a climb on some sections of steep uphill of slippery gravel and scattered branches. After conquering one of the last crazy uphills, I got to a meadow where I saw my first view of Florence. It was incredible. Nearly 20 km from my destination, I could clearly make out Brunelleschi's Duomo through the saddle between two mountains. To me, the city looked like an ancient kingdom, and I forged on towards it with a huge grin on my face. After some more big hills, I finally arrived in the outskirts of the city...I was 5 km away from the center, but I was too tired to run. I stopped and got some Powerades and struggled the rest of the way into the city, feeling like I would never be able to stand again...but somehow pushing forward.
When I got near the Duomo, I gave Pamela a call (Simone had given me here information the day before when I told him I was going to be in Firenze)...her housemate Gloria answered the phone, and I was almost too tired to speak coherent Italian. After some serious struggling, I got the directions to her house (another 5 km from where I was). After that, I sat on the steps of the Duomo for a while, gathering up the courage to make the remaining run/walk to their place on the edge of town. I got there a little after 8 pm (a long and slow day), and we had dinner together with their friend Paolo. After dinner, Gloria, Pamela and Paolo agreed that we should go get some gelato. They are all Buddhist, and before we left I sat in on them doing a pretty interesting vocal chant/prayer...the name of which I forget how to spell, but the importance of which they explained pretty well.
I ended up getting to bed around 2 am. I was woken up the next morning at nine by the sound of my phone ringing. It wasn't a strange Italian number though...it clearly said "Tristan"...and when I picked up, my friend and college roommate was on the other end. He was in Pisa...and he was coming to find me. After some working out of details with Gloria and Pamela, they agreed to let us both stay for another night (I had planned on taking the day off anyways) and Tristan took the first train into Florence from Pisa. We met around 1 pm in front of the Duomo...it was a serious shock for me. The idea of meeting someone that I have known well halfway across the world is a bit crazy...but somehow everything worked out, and there we were.
We spent the day catching up and going through Tristan's stuff, deciding on what he needed to toss and what he needed to get in order to be my running partner for a stretch. We went inside the Duomo and up to the top of the dome (from which we had a great view of the mountains I came from, and the mountains we would have to run over). We went around to a few more of the main sights in the city, and had a late dinner...again, it was pretty crazy having a friend here with me, so a lot of the time was spent just getting over that. At 10:30 we met up with Gloria and Pamela, and I had a shower and washed my stuff. We got to bed around midnight, knowing that each of us would have a big challenge in the coming day...but at least this time it would be a challenge for two.
04 August 2009