Tuesday 4 November.
We were both awake before 5 am this morning. I made a cup of tea, we lay and read for an hour then packed and had breakfast. The forecast was for rain today but looking out the window it seemed bright enough. It was a surprise when we came out from the flat to find it was pouting. We had our waterproofs on anyway to keep warm, it was only our rucksack covers to put in place.
It was a long steep climb out of town to the top of the hill overlooking Fornovo and the Taro valley. The sky behind us was blue and there were bright patches appearing in front as well. When we reached the top the road fell away steeply and we descend into the valley on the other side.
The rain had gone off as we reached the main road heading into the town of Respiccio and the sun was breaking through the clouds, it was beginning to look promising. The route now kept to the SP39 road as it made its way up the valley of the River Sporzano. The road wasn't busy but there were some of heavy vehicles and everyone seemed to drive at top speed. It climbed steadily and now it was dry it was a pleasant walk with outstanding views of the hills on either side of the valley.
The next town was Sivizzano and it was a long strung out place. This was where we had intended staying yesterday but the hostel was now closed. The route took a detour into the town to visit the church but we kept to the road and the VF rejoined us at the far end of the town. A few kilometres after Sivizzano we left the SP39 onto a quieter road that climbed steeply up to the village of Bardone at 402 m. We went to the church and there was shelter under the porch but the sun was shining so we sat on a bench outside. No sooner had I got the tea brewed but the rain came on again and we had to move under the porch. When we were packing up a couple with rucksacks came past, they looked at us with interest then carried on.
A few minutes later they returned and asked if we were doing the VF. They were French and had started in Besancon, they had two dogs with them also with little packs on their backs. They were camping and had pitched their tent in a field nearby last night. Their names were Aniele and Jullian, they were impressed when we told them we had started in Canterbury. They headed off while we finished packing up. There was an alternative after the next village of Terenzo suggested by Cicerone, it took the road, was a few kilometres shorter and easier in bad weather. This was our choice and I wrote out the route into my little notebook while having our break.
It was still on tar as we continued to climb steadily to Terenzo. The views down the valley were beautiful and the village of Bardone with the church was particular attractive now far below us. Terenzo was at 546 m we had climbed nearly 150 m since our break. We overtook the French couple in the village, they had big packs and the girl was also carrying a guitar, the dogs weren't moving very fast either. There was more climbing to come, after leaving Terenzo we came off-road and on to an old mule track that went straight up for 1.5 km. it was a rough stony track with rain water running down the middle in a steady stream.
The rain had been on and off since our restart, when it stopped the sun came out and it was warm and with the effort of the climb we were both hot and sweaty. This was the first part of the route that I had transcribed but it was still waymarked. The next part, when we reached the top of the mule track, got confusing. The signposted VF turned down a grassy track but we couldn't decided which tarred road after that we were to take. There was a major road that I thought was the one but there were no signposts of where it headed or even the road number. I asked a guy in a track parked nearby if that road went to Cassio our destination. Instead of a straight yes or no I got a long story in fast Italian. On examining our maps I was convinced that it was our route and we headed that way. It climbed steadily and after a short distance there was the road number and it was correct but we weren't sure if we were heading in the right direction. Then there was a bus stop with the timetable, the next stop for the bus was in Cassio, we were on track. The road climbed to 880 m before dropping down again to Cassio at 815 m. The rain became heavy again just as we were finishing and there was rumbles of thunder. We found the hostel on the main road and it looked locked up with a contact number on the door. I gave a knock anyway and were surprised when the door opened straight away. The man, Andrea, showed us up to our room in the attic. The stairway walls as we climbed were strangely decorated with numerous different t-shirts, probably donated by pilgrims who had stayed here. We can't give him ours, we only have two each. The attic room had a sloping roof with big oak beams and we had to be careful not to bang our heads.
We got out of our wet clothes and I got into the shower first. The water was boiling and I washed my socks that were soaking anyway. I was going to hang my socks over the radiator hoping it would come on later. It was a pleasant surprise to find it on already and very hot. When Moira had her shower she washed the t-shirts at the same time, now that we could dry them. Next was lunch and I made some tea while Moira prepared cheese sandwiches. The rain was now pouring down outside and the thunder still booming. We stayed in the room which was warm enough but the one radiator was struggling to heat the attic room which was large.
Moira went down and paid Andrea later, it was €32 for the accommodation but there wasn't any meals, we would have to go to the bar which opened at 7 pm. Also he said that there was no places to stay at the top of the pass, Passo della Cisa, they were closed for winter. Tomorrow we will make for Berceto which is only about 10 km and has a few hotels then the following day a long walk over the top and down the other side to Pontremoli about 30 km.
We spent the rest of the afternoon reading and listening it some music from the iPad. I have only a few albums recorded and we have heard them quite a number if times and know them by heart. At 7 pm we went to the bar which was only 50 m back up the road. It was warm inside and they had WiFi but the woman was a bit grumpy and didn't seem to be happy having to cook. There were a few locals in having a glass of wine but they soon left and we were on our own. She took her time serving us and taking our order, we settled for spaghetti it was the only thing we recognised out of the list she quickly rhymed off. It turned out to be with cockles and shrimps, it was all right but not a lot to eat. Moira thought it was just a starter but that was it. I asked if she did pizza but this time I got a straight answer, No! We had some more wine then headed back to our garret room. At least we got into the Internet; I posted my blog and downloaded some podcasts from the BBC. Moira checked the email, Eileen's coffee morning for Pancreatic Cancer raised about £600. I hope this encourages more donations.
Once back we got straight to bed and I put one of the podcasts on to listen to. It was a music quiz but as usual I never got to the end of it, I was sleeping. The rain, thunder and lightening continued all night and is forecast again for tomorrow. Maybe it is fortunate that we have only a short distance to do.