Roma Termini – Pisa Centrale – Lucca

I was up reasonably early to grab breakfast before visiting the one place I really wanted to take a look at in my brief visit to Rome, the Pantheon.

Breakfast is worthy of mention, the hotel I was in only do a room service breakfast. You fill in a card to say what you would like, the night before. I was expecting it to be basic, but it wasn’t bad at all, and it’s always good to do something a bit different.

It was only a short walk past the already busy Trevi Fountain to the Pantheon. It opened at 9am and there were queues down the side streets as I arrived, a few minutes after that. I wasn’t planning to hang around so I quickly booked online on my phone, and walked straight in.

I’ve been in here once before and couldn’t believe that it is around 2000 years old. Because the building has been continuously used it is well preserved/maintained, and is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.

As the pictures show, the oculus (opening) lets in light very effectively, as well as rain (for which there are drain holes in the floor.) There is no additional lighting in the main space. It is the burial place of two Italian kings among others, such as the painter Raphael. I don’t generally do religious buildings (it has been a Catholic church since the 7th century) but I’ll make an exception for this breathtaking place.

I collected my bags and headed for the station. My train wasn’t for another hour but it was getting very hot and I’d rather get it over with and do some work once I’d arrived.

The train to Pisa was packed. Fortunately I had a seat, but lots of people didn’t. It was incredibly warm on board and was a huge relief when lots of passengers got off at Civitavecchia.

Leaving Roma Termini

The train had been running late throughout it’s journey, and by the time we arrived in Grosseto, was about 15 minutes behind schedule. We were told that there would be a further 10 minute delay due to a technical problem. The power went off on the train, but fortunately the doors had been opened. I say fortunately, they were letting very hot air in. The display on the train said 37°C (i.e. body temperature, 98.6°F) just before the power was switched off but at least it was circulating, which was marginally less unpleasant. Lots of people got off, some went to the concourse to get drinks.

My phone then decided it wasn’t playing any more. iPhones shut down at 35°C to protect themselves. Lucky them!

After about 5 minutes pause the train was effectively rebooted again (power off and on) and this time the aircon came back properly. We set off and made it to Pisa just over an hour late, pretty much as the temperature inside was becoming pleasant, for the first time in this journey.

My planned connection had long gone, but they run every half hour so I only had a 15 minute wait.

It’s only a short trip from Pisa to Lucca, and only a 10 minute walk to my accommodation after that. The temperature had started to drop, but it was still very warm. I was glad of the hat I’d brought with me, even for this short time.

I immediately warmed to the place I had booked and on the spur of the moment asked if they had availability for a second night, which they did. I’d already realised that exploring Florence was out of the question in this heat and needed a suitable place to see out what was predicted to be an extremely hot day, before visiting Bologna the day after that. On arrival in my room I was immediately glad of the decision I’d made. It was more of a suite than a room, with a small kitchen and seating area, divided from the bedroom.

After a short pause I headed out again, to get my bearings for this evening’s concert. A section of the town amounting to a couple of squares and the roads that lead to them had been sectioned off and the entrance was round to the far side from where I was staying. I decided to grab something to eat before going in.

It turned out that I could have gone straight in, the section inside the perimeter had any number of restaurants bars and cafés. The stage was a huge construction, and the seating area had a grandstand as well as the flat seating in the square. I’d not realised that what I thought was a one-off show was actually part of a festival with artists as diverse as Kiss, Bob Dylan, Blur and Simply Red over a few weeks, mostly in this arena, but with a couple of the larger shows outside the city walls.

I had an excellent view in the sixth row, but have no photos of the show, as we were asked not to.

The audience was a mix of die-hard Pat Metheny fans and casual visitors, clearly not sure who he was. They varied greatly in age and weren’t quite sure how to react to some of the more “out there” material, but clapped all the solos as jazz audiences do. I enjoyed it, but nowhere near as much as the show I’d last seen him do in London last year, where playing to a passionate crowd and sharing the stage with a couple of young musicians clearly galvanised him. It had been the best show I’d seen him play in more than 20 years.

Also being a festival (and in a town centre with a 9:30pm start) it was a shorter set than usual. Pat’s shows often run to 2½ or 3 hours, but this one was done in around 2.

Afterwards I took a first quick look around the middle of Lucca, stopping for a drink in the gorgeous Piazza dell’Anfiteatro around midnight, by which time the temperature was pretty much perfect. I’ll explore Lucca properly tomorrow.